Supermarkets begin to lift customer limits on fresh produce as shortages ease
Supermarkets have started to drop customer limits on buying certain fresh fruit and vegetables as supply issues that led to widespread shortages begin to ease.
Asda confirmed it had removed limits of three on cucumbers, lettuce, salad bags, broccoli, cauliflower and raspberries, leaving restrictions of three on just tomatoes and peppers.
The supermarket said availability overall had improved as expected, and supplies of tomatoes and peppers were also expected to be back to normal within a couple of weeks.
Shoppers began sharing their frustration about shortages of tomatoes around February 20, with retailers responding that a combination of bad weather and related transport problems in north Africa and Europe were causing significant supply problems.
The shortages soon spread to other products, leaving shelves bare of a number of fresh produce items including cucumbers, peppers and lettuces.
Tesco, Aldi and Lidl limited purchases of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers to three items per person, while Morrisons set a limit of two items per customer across tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers.
Production problems in Morocco began in January with unusually cold night-time temperatures that affected tomato ripening.
Growers and suppliers in Morocco then had to contend with heavy rain, flooding and cancelled ferries – all of which have affected the volume of fruit reaching Britain.
Supplies from Britain’s other major winter source, Spain, were also badly affected by weather.
These were compounded by ferry cancellations due to bad weather, hitting lorry deliveries.
Producers locally also reported having to cut back on their use of greenhouses due to higher electricity prices.
Environment Secretary Therese Coffey made headlines when, asked about the shortages, she suggested that 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”.
He said the UK had “hit a tipping point” and needed to “take command of the food we produce” amid “volatility around the world” caused by the war in Europe and climate change.