UK Supermarkets Face Severe Fruit and Vegetable Shortage
Today, supermarkets across the UK are facing severe shortages of some fruit and veg, with empty shelves pictured in Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda stores. Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey has said that the situation could last two to four weeks, and even suggested that Brits switch to turnips and other seasonal veggies for the time being.
Bad weather in southern Spain and Morocco has been attributed to the scarcity of fruits and vegetables, due to a lack of successful harvests. Frost damage to home-grown British crops such as carrots, cabbages, parsnips and cauliflowers also means many fields have been written off, exacerbating the problem.
Some suppliers claim that because of the extra costs and paperwork due to Brexit, the UK has been relegated to the bottom of the list for produce imported from the EU and Morocco. After Brexit, this dependency has become more expensive due to new customs procedures and paperwork, which has led to delays and disruptions at ports and borders.
Asda was quick to respond with a cap of three packs per customer on tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and raspberries citing disrupted harvests in Spain and Morocco due to deteriorated weather conditions. Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Waitrose and M&S have not announced any limits.
Mark Spencer, Minister of Farming, explained that the main cause of the current supply shortage was “frost in Morocco and Spain in November and December which damaged a lot of the salad and brassica crops which we have traditionally relied for imports at this time of year,” in a statement to reporters this week. The National Farmer Union's President Minette Batters also blamed the country's reliance on imports during the winter for the supply crunch, noting that the rise in energy prices had pushed United Kingdom greenhouses that grow salad products during winter to cut back operations.
Liz Webster, who is the chair of Save British Food activist group, has blamed Brexit for making it harder to export goods from the EU to Britain. However, others have argued that the reason for the lack of U.K. supply is more complicated. According to Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, challenging weather conditions in the South of Europe and Northern Africa have caused disruptions to the harvest of various fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers.
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1. “Food shortages could last a month, says minister, insisting system ‘remains resilient'” Sky News, 23 Feb. 2023, https://news.sky.com/story/eat-turnips-instead-of-tomatoes-suggests-minister-as-she-admits-food-shortages-could-last-a-month-12817794
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7. “Eat turnips not tomatoes: Environment Secretary tells Brits facing veg shortage as she warns of month of…” LBC, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.lbc.co.uk/news/supermarket-kherson-ukraine-bursting-with-fresh-produce-british-shortages/
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9. “How the fruit and veg supply shortage is hitting Sunderland supermarkets – with buying limits imposed on some items” Sunderland Echo, 25 Feb. 2023, https://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/people/how-the-fruit-and-veg-supply-shortage-is-hitting-sunderland-supermarkets-how-asda-aldi-lidl-sainsburys-marks-and-spencer-and-others-are-faring-4040948
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