Crop shortage to hit Co Down pre-pack salad firm by £1m
Low supplies caused by weather crisis is the worst director has seen in 50 years of trading
Northern Ireland pre-pack salad company Willowbrook Foods has said it could lose up to £1m as lettuce supplies are hit by extreme weather in Spain.
John McCann, founder and managing director of Willowbrook Foods, spent a week braving floodwaters in Murcia, Spain to inspect the damage to his firm's raw material supplies.
The Willowbrook boss said that as a result, he could not fulfil orders of ready-to-use lettuce to the retail and food service industries. The crisis is set to hit the company's sales, which last year reached £22m.
Floods in southern Spain have hit the country's crops, leaving around 80% of the salad crops produced in Murcia unusable. And the worst snow in decades has hit the company's other suppliers in Italy.
"Last week we had up to 70% shortages - a disaster for our customers who could not understand why," he said. "Modern supply to customers is around 99.8% and this level has dropped down to 30% and was unacceptable and unheard of.
"Looking to the future, assuming the weather does improve as the spring arrives, the problems have not gone away.
"A certain fact is that with three to four weeks of no planting at the end of December and January, there will be no crops maturing in March.
"This will see a possible total stoppage. Maybe warm weather and growth compensate a little, but the growers and lettuce users are facing a period of no crops.