Summer blues

The Met Office has issued a revised forecast, washing away any hopes of a barbecue summer with predictions of more rain in August.

In April, the Met Office declared that we were "odds-on for a barbecue summer", with above-average temperatures and less rain than the last few years. "We can expect times when temperatures will be above 30°C, something we hardly saw at all last year," said chief meteorologist Ewen McCallum.

After a promising start in June, however, July was a wash-out and the forecasting team have now released a revised update, indicating that August will be warm but wet with "above-average rainfall".

Graham Bidston, chief executive of the National Federation of Meat & Food Traders (NFMFT) said the poor weather is one of the biggest issues for his members at present. "The barbecue trade is important to independent butchers, especially those in areas with lots of caravans and campers," he said. "It's just better business for us when the sun shines."

The weather is not just putting a dampener on barbecue sales. Bidston pointed out that sales of cooked meats will also be down and Douglas Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders' Association (SFMTA), said that downpours have cost some Scottish butchers a whole afternoon's trade. "When the weather is really bad it drives people to the shopping malls," he said.

Malcolm Pyne, of P&B Butchers in Somerset, agreed that rain has washed away some summer trade. "We were doing better in May," he said. "We have benefited from organised events, planned when the Met Office released its original forecast back in April, but sales for impromptu barbecues have been a bit rubbish. It's a shame because barbecues bring in good business - you can't barbecue a cabbage can you?"

Malcolm is now concentrating on providing alternatives for his loyal customers. "It's wet but it's not cold, so we are keeping our margins up by focusing on summery kitchen-ready products such as marinated pork steaks," he said.