Supermarket bosses meeting food minister over fruit and veg shortage
Food minister Mark Spencer has summoned supermarket chiefs to explain “what they are doing to get shelves stocked again” amid shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables.
The meeting comes as consumers continue to face, at best, buying restrictions on certain fresh produce items such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers or even bare shelves as retailers grapple with supply problems.
Mr Spencer said: “The current situation – caused by recent poor weather in North Africa – shows how dependent we can be on certain trade routes for some types of food.
“I know families expect the fresh produce they need to be on the shelves when they go in for their weekly shop. That is why I am calling in supermarket chiefs to find out what they are doing to get shelves stocked again and to outline how we can avoid a repeat of this.
“As we do our shopping, we should all give our thanks to the UK’s tens of thousands of farmers and food producers for keeping us fed throughout the year and particularly showing their mettle keeping the nation going during the pandemic.”
On Monday Lidl became the latest supermarket to introduce buyer limits, but stressed it continues to have good availability across the majority of its stores.
A spokeswoman said: “As advised to our customers through signage in our stores last week, adverse weather conditions in Spain and Morocco have recently impacted the availability of certain salad items across the supermarket sector.
“Whilst we still have good availability across the majority of our stores, due to a recent increase in demand we have taken the decision to temporarily limit the purchase of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers to three items per person.
“This will help to ensure that all of our customers have access to the products they need.”
On Wednesday, Tesco followed Aldi, Asda and Morrisons in introducing customer limits on certain fresh produce as shortages left supermarket shelves bare.
Tesco and Aldi are limiting customers to three units of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers as a precautionary measure, while Asda is also limiting customers on lettuce, salad bags, broccoli, cauliflower and raspberries.
Morrisons has set a limit of two items per customer across tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers.
Retailers believe the problems stem from poor yields on the continent and north Africa and that supplies will improve in the coming days or weeks.
Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said on Thursday British consumers should eat more turnips instead of imported food.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said shortages of some fruit and vegetables in UK supermarkets could be “the tip of the iceberg”.
Deputy president Tom Bradshaw said a reliance on imports has left the UK vulnerable to “shock weather events”.
Soaring energy bills exacerbated by the war in Ukraine have also put off some UK vegetable growers, he added.
He said the UK has “hit a tipping point” and needs to “take command of the food we produce” amid “volatility around the world” caused by the war in Europe and climate change.