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Fresh Produce

Britain's Salad Vegetable Crisis Its Own Fault, Says Former Sainsbury's Boss

By Reuters
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One of Britain's most experienced retail bosses has blamed the country's current shortage of salad vegetables on a lack of government support which has meant home growers have been unable to make up for supplies hit by poor harvests overseas.

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

The crisis has been exacerbated by less winter production in greenhouses in Britain and the Netherlands due to high energy costs.

Read More: Britain, Ireland Facing Tomato Shortage After Overseas Harvests Disrupted

'Uniquely Exposed To Imports'

Justin King, who was CEO of Sainsbury's for a decade to 2014 and is currently a non-executive director of Marks & Spencer, said on Thursday Britain was uniquely exposed to imports at this time of year because the government had chosen not to support UK growers with their energy bills.

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"There is a genuine shortage but we did rather bring this problem upon ourselves," he told BBC radio.

"We could have chosen to subsidise the energy this winter as we have done for other industries."

Horticulture has been excluded from a government Energy and Trade Intensive Industries scheme (ETII) that provides help with energy costs.

Salad Ingredients Supply

On Tuesday, Minette Batters, the head of the National Farmers Union warned that production of salad ingredients was expected to fall to the lowest level since records began in 1985.

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King said that most UK supermarkets still had "very good" supply of salad vegetables coming in but overall the country is short.

He said restaurants and high street green grocers were likely struggling to get stock from their wholesale markets and were instead going to the supermarkets for supplies.

"That's why supermarkets introduce fair purchase policies so that 'real' customers are able to buy the one or two that they really need."

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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