Food shortages in the UK – what’s missing from supermarket shelves and why?

Amid continuing food shortages in the UK, Lidl has become the latest store to restrict sales of specific fruits and vegetables.

BBC News has reported that the German discount shop will cap the number of tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers that each customer can purchase at three.

This is in line with similar actions taken by Tesco, Asda, and Aldi. Morrisons has gone a step further by limiting items to two per person.

Tobacco packs, peppers, cucumber, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, salad bags, and raspberries are among the things Asda is restricting purchases to three per customer.

The environment secretary, Therese Coffey, has revealed that shortages of some fruit and vegetables will take two to four weeks to be resolved.

The British Tomato Growers’ Association has said that, with the upcoming British tomato-growing season, the stocks should be replenished by the end of March or the start of April.

The food shortages come as the president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Minette Batters, is expected to warn that time is running out for the Government to back British farming.

Britain's retailers experienced supply-chain problems after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. However, things seemed to improve as Christmas approached.

But turbulent weather in nations from where the UK receives its supply has meant supermarkets have been unable to keep up with demand and fill their shelves.

Which foods are in short supply?

Salad crops

There aren't enough cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes due to the severe weather in Europe and Africa.

The UK depends on Morocco and Spain for vegetables during the winter. However, because of heavy rain and floods, suppliers have been hit by ferry cancellations, which have affected lorry transport.

Supermarkets have also had shortages of broccoli and citrus fruits.


Given that the UK has been experiencing food shortages on and off for the past few months, supermarkets were forced to put a restriction on egg purchases late last year.

Higher fuel, feed, and fertiliser costs, as well as avian influenza outbreaks, have increased prices. The British Free Range Egg Producers Association says that the cost of feeding hens has risen by at least 50 per cent, while the price of fuel has increased by 30 per cent.

And, even though the price of eggs has increased by about 45p at supermarkets and other retailers, farmers are not benefitting from the increase.

Why are there shortages?

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Difficult weather conditions in the south of Europe and Northern Africa have disrupted harvest for some fruit and vegetables, including tomatoes.”

Growers say the shortages are part of a larger problem affecting the UK's food supply.

Farmers across the UK have been compelled to reduce their output due to rising expenses.

The cost of cultivating a tomato climbed by 27 per cent between 2021 and 2022, according to research released by the NFU in November. This increase was primarily caused by rising energy prices. Other crops, such as lettuce, broccoli, and potatoes, also experienced similar increases.

Despite the fact that Britain has always relied on fresh produce from Spain and Northern Africa over the winter, growers claim this year's need is much greater.

This is because the high expense of heating greenhouses has discouraged growers in Britain and Northern Europe from planting for a winter harvest.

What are the best foods to stockpile?

There are a few affordable foods to stockpile in case of future emergencies.

Dried or canned beans are a versatile kitchen staple, with high fibre.

Rice, grains, and pasta are complex carbohydrates that keep you fuller for longer and can help you to manage your cholesterol.

Canned vegetables and fruit can come in handy when there are shortages.

Canned tuna is an inexpensive form of good-quality protein.

Peanut butter is also an easily accessible source of protein.

Broth and stock soups are comfort foods and easy to make.

What else has been in shortage?

The Guardian last month reported a shortage of cough and cold medicines in the UK.

Throat lozenges, cough mixtures, and some painkillers, antibiotics and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) were among the affected medicines.

The shortage was a result of the prime minister’s “lack of planning”, the Guardian reported.