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East Anglia: So far, so good for this year’s pea harvest, says Anglian Pea Growers

15:34 15 July 2014

East Anglian pea growers were more than a third of the way through harvest this week, and hoping for a good crop.

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Chair of Anglian Pea Growers Richard Hirst said it was too early to say for sure at the moment as only about 35% to 40% of members’ crop is in, but so far it was looking “reasonable”.

“It has been a lovely growing spring but the heavy rain that Suffolk in particular had at the end of May has affected some crops,” he said.

“We have got very good quality across the board which is good from the consumer point of view, which is what we want, but until we actually finish, a whole lot of things can go wrong with peas. They are terribly water-sensitive. Certainly at the moment we are pleased with how things are going.”

Anglian Pea Growers is a farmers’ co-operative made up of around 120 farms from Bacton in Norfolk to Nacton near Ipswich, and between them they supply around 10 to 12% of the UK market..

Its peas, harvested using its own joint-owned machinery, are sent to the Norbert Dentressangle plant at Oulton Broad, near Lowestoft, to be frozen. The co-op sells to a company called Ardo, which is a Belgian family business with a UK arm. The peas are then sold to supermarkets throughout the UK where they are purchased by consumers as ‘own label’ produce. They are also sold to some food outlets.

Mr Hirst expected that they would finish harvesting the peas around the second week of August.

“We normally have about a 55-day harvest,” he explained. Today is about day 25 of the run.

The co-op was fairly unique in the level of co-operation between members, added Mr Hirst, who grows around 65 hectares of peas on his farm near Great Yarmouth.

How well pea growers will do this year is hard to tell, he said.

“A lot depends on how the crop turns out. Until the end of the season it’s a job to know how good it’s going to be,” he said.

“We have agreed a contracts and it depends on how we perform against that.”

Despite the East Anglian pea growers’ efforts, the UK still imports some peas. About 135,000 tonnes are grown here, but about 160,000 tonnes go into the market.

Farm manager at Home Farm Nacton, near Ipswich, Andrew Williams has already brought in his pea harvest.

“It has been a good growing spring,” he said. “We came out of a horrible winter and very wet winter but a very mild winter. We are on light land and a lot of the peas harvested (through Anglian Pea Growers) have probably been on light land,” he said.

“We had a nice run since then apart from that very wet time during May.”

An intense period where four inches of rain fell in a short period caused some headaches, he said.

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