Vegetable growers gear up for busy Christmas

As other businesses wind down for Christmas, vegetable growers in the region are preparing for one of their busiest times of the year.

Produce World grows and supplies many of the vegetables that will make up the family feast on Christmas Day including potatoes, parsnips, carrots, onions and sprouts. Most of its Christmas carrots will be coming from the Aldeburgh area.

The company, which is based in Peterborough, but sources produce from a number of sites, including in Suffolk and Essex, is one of the largest expert growers and suppliers of fresh vegetables in Europe.

The privately-owned business was founded by the Burgess family in 1898. Its main grower is Tompsett Burgess Growers which operates in the Suffolk area. Produce World IFP is currently harvesting most of its Christmas carrots from the Aldeburgh area.

Produce World Rustler’s growers in Suffolk are 3M’s, based on the coast near Woodbridge, Elveden Farms and Frederick Hiams and in Essex its grower is Stuart Macdonald.

Another arm, Produce World Solanum, will be sourcing produce from two Essex growers over the Christmas period - the Stevenson Brothers at Shalford Green near Braintree and David Kerr and Co at Tylers Green, near Harlow.

Group commercial director Jason Burgess said: “We are, of course, kept busy throughout the year growing and supplying fresh vegetables to some of the UK’s leading retailers including Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, but Christmas is a particularly busy time, and we know how important it is to make sure that we get our produce on to the supermarket shelves no matter what the weather or road conditions.”

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Produce World Marshalls is responsible for growing, packing and distributing the nation’s favourite Christmas vegetable - the sprout. The company estimates that between December 11 and January 7, it will harvest, pack and distribute nearly two million 500gram packs of sprouts. The weight of the harvested product will be equivalent to more than 1,000 Ford Focus cars, and the company estimates that there will be enough for more than 11 million Christmas dinners.

The responsibility of delivering potatoes for some 15 million people on Christmas Day rests with Produce World Solanum. According to Mark Spurdens, the company’s business unit director, they will have to work twice as hard as usual to deliver the spuds people want for Christmas.

“Basically we will have to fit two weeks work into one to satisfy demand,” he said.

“That means warming, grading, washing, inspecting and packing in excess of 2,000 tonnes of the best quality potatoes. Not many people know that the tender loving care we lavish on our potatoes includes gently warming them. This helps to avoid bruising when they are packed.”

At Produce World’s roots specialist Produce World IFP, the focus will be on delivering carrots and parsnips. Procurement director George Rivers says that around 104 lorry loads of parsnips and 107 loads of carrots will be delivered to leading retailers.

“I have calculated that all the carrots we supply for Christmas would stretch from London to Istanbul if laid end-to-end,” he said.

“That’s more than 17 million carrots. Also we produce enough parsnips for 1.2 million Christmas dinners.”