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Fresh Produce

Britain, Ireland Facing Tomato Shortage After Overseas Harvests Disrupted

By Reuters
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Britain, Ireland Facing Tomato Shortage After Overseas Harvests Disrupted

Shoppers in the UK and Ireland are facing a shortage of tomatoes and other vegetables after supermarket supplies were impacted by disrupted harvests in southern Europe and North Africa.

Warmer weather in these regions that affected crop yields was followed by recent cooler weather leading to longer growth times.

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

"However, supermarkets are adept at managing supply chain issues and are working with farmers to ensure that customers are able to access a wide range of fresh produce," he said.

Purchase Limits

Britain's biggest supermarket group Tesco on Wednesday followed rivals Asda, Morrisons and Aldi in imposing customer purchase limits on salad vegetables after supplies were hit by disrupted harvests in southern Europe and north Africa.

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Tesco has introduced a buying limit of three items per customer on tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

The British arm of Aldi had previously announced the same limits.

Asda imposed purchase limits on eight lines of vegetables and fruit on Tuesday, while Morrisons imposed them on four lines from Wednesday.

Read More: UK Retailers Impose Purchase Limits On Certain Fresh Produce Items

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Shortage In Ireland

Elsewhere, in Ireland, trade publication the Irish Farmers Journal reported that tomatoes and cucumbers and selected other vegetables were in short supply, owing to particularly cold weather in Spain.

'January frost, snow and rain in Spain have led to reduced supply of tomatoes and cucumbers to the Irish market', the publication said, noting that Spain had also faced 'supply issues'.

National broadcaster RTE reported that Tesco's Irish operation is experiencing 'temporary availability issues of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and some salad products', while Lidl and SuperValu are also engaging with suppliers following a shortfall of produce.

Ukraine-Related Disruption

Last year, Britain's grocers suffered supply chain disruptions due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine but availability was much improved in the run-up to Christmas, with an exception being eggs.

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In winter, the UK has typically imported around 90% of crops like cucumbers and tomatoes, but has been nearly self-sufficient in the summer.

It is particularly reliant during the winter on Morocco and Spain.

Read More: Top 10 European Countries By Fruit And Vegetable Consumption

Analyst Viewpoint

Commenting on the challenges facing UK supermarkets in sourcing fruit and vegetables, Danni Hewson of AJ Bell said, "Extreme weather conditions in parts of Spain and north Africa have impacted supplies of salad staples like tomatoes and peppers.

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"Where supply issues lead price hikes are sure to follow, another unpleasant factor British shoppers will have to consider when planning their weekly menus.

“In scenes reminiscent of those we saw pre-lockdown, shelves have been left empty and shoppers are finding they’re having to hunt around if they can’t do without certain fresh products. Questions are being asked about whether the UK is singularly impacted by the shortages and whether the post Brexit world leaves the country more vulnerable to supply shocks."

Read More: Discover The Healthiest Countries In Europe

News by Reuters, edited by ESM – your source for the latest fresh produce news. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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