London, February 23
Some of Britain’s leading supermarket chains have imposed purchase limits on certain fruits and vegetables amid a supply shortage due to adverse weather conditions and the knock-on effects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with the UK government warning on Thursday that the situation could last up to a month.
Tomatoes, peppers or capsicums, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and boxes of raspberries are among the produce being limited to around three for each customer by the likes of Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Aldi.
The shortage has been linked with bad weather in southern Europe and Africa as well as high energy prices restricting greenhouse farming in the UK and the Netherlands.
“We anticipate the situation will last about another two to four weeks,” Environment Secretary Therese Coffey told the House of Commons in response to an urgent question in Parliament.
“It is important that we try and make sure that we get alternative sourcing options,” she said.
The minister said her Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has been in discussion with retailers to get over the crisis and avoid similar situations in the future.
“I wish to reiterate UK food security does remain resilient and we continue to expect industry to be able to mitigate supply problems through alternative sourcing options,” she added.
Opposition Labour Party flagged genuine concern among the public over shortage of some of the basic food items in their shopping basket.
“There is genuine public concern about the availability of food and as the secretary responsible for our food security – and let’s bear in mind food security is national security – this is absolutely mission critical,” said Labour’s shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon.
The supermarket chain Tesco took to Twitter to announce: “For a short period of time we’re limiting tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers to 3 per customer.
“This is due to poor weather conditions abroad and we’re working hard with our suppliers to get things back to normal as quickly as we can. Thanks for your understanding at this time.”
Asda and Aldi have similar limits on tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in place at some of their outlets and Morrisons has set the limit at two per customer.
“Like other supermarkets, we are experiencing sourcing challenges on some products that are grown in southern Spain and North Africa,” a spokesperson for Asda said.
“We have introduced a temporary limit of three of each product on a very small number of fruit and vegetable lines, so customers can pick up the products they are looking for,” the spokesperson said.
While some supermarkets have resorted to limits, there are others such as Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Lidl and Waitrose who have not yet imposed any limits.
It follows warnings from the UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) that farmers are struggling to meet their energy costs amid a crisis triggered by the conflict in Europe.
Minette Batters, president of the England and Wales industry group, said the production of some British vegetables grown in lit, heated buildings, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, was already falling.
“I think there are going to be challenges on availability of some food items,” she warned earlier this week.