Cold weather, bad planning to blame for UK salad crisis, Spain says

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Workers package tomatoes in a farmers' cooperative in El Ejido in southeastern Spain

By Emma Pinedo

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's agriculture minister said on Wednesday that bad planning by Britain and problems caused by Brexit as well as cold weather were the main reasons behind a shortage of salad items there.

British supermarket chains including Tesco have imposed limits on customer purchases of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers after supplies across the supermarket sector were hit by disrupted harvests in southern Europe and North Africa due to unseasonable weather.

"There is a problem of programming the purchases, which is quite important, and then there has been a lower production as a result of the low temperatures," Agriculture Minister Luis Planas said during an event on Wednesday.

Planas said that not only greenhouse crops but also open-air crops such as artichokes or broccoli were affected.

Spain is one of Britain's leading suppliers of fruit and vegetables.

The crisis has been exacerbated by less winter production in greenhouses in Britain and the Netherlands because of high energy costs, with social media awash with pictures of empty fruit and vegetable shelves in supermarkets.

Planas said shortages showed the vulnerability of food supply in Britain and the labour problems in the private sector as a result of Brexit.

"Brexit was not a great deal, but that is for them to judge," he said.

Spain's vegetable and fruit production is recovering after taking a hit from adverse weather conditions and supplies for export markets should improve soon, the FEPEX association of exporters of fresh products said last week.

Planas said that although markets such as France or Germany had probably been given priority, shortages in Britain were "an absolutely transitory situation".

"We want to keep our customers and they also want Spanish products that they know are of high quality," he said.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo, editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan)