Cooking oil shortage: Why are UK supermarkets rationing supplies?

Watch: Supermarkets across UK limit cooking oil purchases

The UK is facing a shortage of cooking oil due to the war in Ukraine, which has sparked a surge in prices and led some supermarkets to ration supplies.

Tesco, Morrisons, Iceland and Waitrose are among the retailers to have introduced limits on how much cooking oil customers can buy.

The lack of supplies has made crisps, chips and cereal bars more expensive, in another blow to UK shoppers struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

Here is everything you need to know about the shortages.

Why is there a shortage of cooking oil?

Most of the UK's sunflower oil comes from Ukraine, so the war with Russia has caused major disruption to exports of the product.

Ukraine is the world's largest exporter of sunflower oil.

This has led to rising demand for alternatives, including olive and rapeseed oils.

Recent data showed cooking oil was one of a range of food staples to have its price shoot up.

Read more: UK households face £271 rise in food bills

The price of cooking oils and fats went up 7% and is nearly a quarter more expensive than a year ago, the Office for National Statistics said on April 13.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is also threatening the food supply and livelihoods of people in mainland Europe, Africa and Asia.

Which supermarkets are rationing supplies?

Tesco has introduced a "temporary buying limit" of three items of cooking oil per customer. Waitrose and Morrisons have placed limits of two items each, while Iceland is allowing just one item per shopper.

Sainsbury's and Asda are not currently rationing supplies.

Tom Holder, a spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium, said the restrictions were a "temporary measure to ensure availability for everyone".

Cooking oil on shelves in a Tesco store in Ashford, Surrey. Supermarkets across the UK have placed limits on how much cooking oil customers can buy due to supply-chain problems caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Picture date: Saturday April 23, 2022. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Cooking oil shortage: Most of the UK's sunflower oil comes from Ukraine. (PA) (Steve Parsons - PA Images via Getty Images)

He added: "Where sunflower oil exists as an ingredient in products, retailers will be substituting it with other safe oils, such as rapeseed oil.

"Retailers are also working with suppliers to ramp up production of alternative cooking oils, to minimise the impact on consumers."

But grocery expert Ged Futter told the BBC that sunflower oil may soon be unavailable on supermarket shelves.

He said: "These limits may delay things a bit, but in a couple of months, there won't be any sunflower oil available to buy."

What have the supermarkets said?

Iceland's managing director Richard Walker confirmed the supermarket was "limiting purchases", but said the rush for cooking oil was "not as frenzied" as the panic-buying seen during the 2020 COVID lockdown.

Tesco said in a statement: "We have good availability of cooking oils in stores and online. If a customer is unable to find their preferred oil, we have plenty of alternatives to choose from.

"To make sure all of our customers can continue to get what they need, we've introduced a temporary buying limit of three items per customer on products from our cooking oil range."

Read more: Asda pledges £73m to keep prices low

Waitrose said it was "closely monitoring the situation and working with our suppliers to ensure customers continue to have a choice of cooking oils".

Sainsbury's said it was "are working closely with our suppliers to make sure customers continue to have cooking oils to choose from".