A supermarket boss has warned Brexit is contributing to shortages of fruit and vegetables in the UK after the sector was “hurt horribly" by the decision to leave the EU.
Shoppers are facing limits on the amount of fresh produce they can purchase as supply issues leave supermarket shelves bare.
The major supermarkets have blamed "difficult weather conditions" in Spain and Morocco for the problems following heavy rainfall, thunderstorms and snow storms.
But former Sainsbury's CEO Justin King told LBC that Brexit was partly to blame as UK greenhouses producing peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes had been negatively impacted by it.
Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons have introduced rations on certain items, including tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, as a way of maintaining their stock during the supply issues which could last weeks.
King said: "North Kent, in Thanet, [had] the largest greenhouses in Europe, which used to be full of peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes.
"But those greenhouses have suffered, really, from two big things. I hate to say it, Nick, but it's a sector that's been hurt horribly by Brexit."
Anti-Brexit campaign group Save British Farming also blamed supply issues on the UK’s decision to leave the EU, adding: “The reason we have #foodshortages in Britain is because of this @Conservatives govt and their #Brexit and it’s not because of Spanish weather!”
Watch: Rationing risk as tomato shortage hits UK supermarkets
King added the government’s decision to exclude supermarkets from the energy support scheme as well as the bad weather in Spain and Morocco were also to blame.
The UK has relied more on products grown in Morocco following Brexit, so the country is vulnerable to any issues in this region.
Production problems in Morocco began in January with unusually cold night-time temperatures that affected tomato ripening.
These were compounded by ferry cancellations due to bad weather, hitting lorry deliveries.
Rising energy costs have also been cited as a reason for the fresh food shortages.
According to reports, tomato growers in the UK are struggling to heat their greenhouses due to lack of money.
On Wednesday, environment secretary Therese Coffey told farmers “we can’t control the weather in Spain” when confronted with the news that supermarkets were limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.
In her speech to delegates at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference in Birmingham, Coffey stressed the need for biosecurity but left the conference hall before discussing the supermarket supply issues.
It is understood that 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.