Politicians looking for answers to the tomato shortage

Food cost inflation has been driven by shortages: An update from Aldi, Morrisons, a UK supermarket chain says it will stop rationing

Major UK supermarkets have started rationing the sale of some staple fruits and salad vegetables, blaming poor weather that has depressed production in Spain and north Africa.

Morrisons told CNN that it had imposed a cap of two packs per customer on tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and lettuce. Aldi, a German discount grocery chain, announced Wednesday that it would also introduce a limit of three packs per person on peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes in its UK stores.

Some products that are grown in southern Spain and north Africa are experiencing some challenges in getting their product to the store.

The UK’s second-largest food retailer toldCNN it had no plans to ration fruit and vegetables.

The four-week period ended on January 22 saw food price inflation hit 16.7%. That’s the highest level since the data company started tracking it.

“The more we face shortages, the more it will drive food inflation,” Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which represents more than 46,000 farming and growing businesses, told the BBC Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said in a statement: “We understand public concerns around the supply of fresh vegetables. The UK has a resilient food supply chain and is ready to deal with disruptions.

Produce shortages and energy costs in the UK are affecting the tomato and cucumber sector, and the energy price of natural gas in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion

The hot weather in Spain and Morocco last fall was a factor in the production hitting the floor, Andrew Woods told CNN.

According to the British Retail Consortium, the UK supermarkets usually import most of their produce in December and the rest in March.

James Bailey, executive director of supermarket Waitrose, said on Monday that hail and snow in parts of Spain had wiped out a big part of the crops.

“Give it about [two weeks] and the other growing seasons in other parts of the world will have caught up and we should be able to get that supply back in,” Bailey added.

Tomatoes and cucumbers are expected to fall to the lowest levels since the NFU began keeping records in 1985 due to the high input costs.

“Labor shortages and soaring energy prices are hitting the poultry industry, already reeling from avian influenza, as well as horticultural businesses and pig farms,” Batters said in a speech Tuesday.

The price of natural gas — a key input for nitrogen-based fertilizers — shot up following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Batters noted that despite the recent decrease in gas prices, they are still triple their historical average and have gone up 169% in the last year.

“Across Europe, supplies [of tomatoes] are reportedly tight, and growers continue to grapple with higher fertilizer, energy and labor costs,” Mintec said in a note.

But Defra said in its statement Wednesday that “similar disruption is also being seen in other countries,” and that it was helping UK growers by expanding a visa scheme for seasonal workers to fill labor gaps.

The supermarkets have not mentioned the issue of supply shortage due to the government’s repeal of the Lisbon Treaty. The NFU and some campaign groups say that it has made labor shortages worse.

Direct subsidy payments to UK farmers from the European Union are being phased out, which has increased uncertainty for farmers, Batters said in her speech. The United Kingdom plans to fully implement its own subsidy scheme by 2024.

Can we live in the clammy UK? – Comment on Turnips versus Claws at the Tevatron in Britain’s Fourth Festival

Until then, U.K. minister Therese Coffey suggested Brits take a page from the past and eat turnips instead, which grow more easily in the clammy British climate.

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