Shortages of Fruit & Vegetables in British Supermarkets: An Update
British supermarkets have been dealing with shortages in their fruit and vegetable aisles since the weekend due to a variety of factors, including transport problems and adverse weather. The UK's largest supermarkets, Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons, have imposed limits on certain products, such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, salad bags, broccoli, cauliflower and raspberries.
In response to an urgent question in the House of Commons, Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said she expected the shortages of some fresh food items to last for up to a month. However, one UK producers' group has said the shortages of some fruit and vegetables could last until May, with supplies of British leeks expected to run out before St David’s Day next week.
Importers contend that the extra expenses and bureaucracy caused by Brexit have put the UK behind in the line for supplies from European manufacturers when crops are scarce in Europe. The increased costs and paperwork associated with it can also lead to delays at the border, especially when it comes to perishable goods.
Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said the disruption was expected to last a few weeks, but added that supermarkets were “adept at managing supply chain issues and are working with farmers to ensure that customers are able to access a wide range of fresh produce.”
It is not just a UK-centric issue, as EU markets are also experiencing limited stocks, with some customers in the bloc reporting pricing issues of their own. Poor weather in regions such as Spain and Morocco is a major factor, as well as a decline in UK greenhouses that grow such everyday products. The supermarkets have said they are not prepared to cover the increased cost of heating for certain items.
It is important that the government and retailers try to get alternative sourcing options, and with the department already in discussion with the retailers, further discussions led by ministers are also taking place. Ms Coffey added that it is important to make sure that we cherish the specialisms that we have in this country.
It is clear that the current vegetable shortages are a complex issue and will take some time to resolve. In the meantime, supermarkets are working to ensure customers still have access to a wide range of fresh produce.
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