Tesco and Aldi limit the sales of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers

  • By Michael Ras
  • Business reporter, BBC News

Tesco is the latest supermarket to introduce restrictions on the sale of certain fruits and vegetables due to a shortage of fresh produce.

It follows similar moves from Aldi, Asda and Morrisons, with other supermarkets also said to be in trouble after extreme weather conditions hit crops abroad.

Tesco sets limits of three per customer on the sale of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

However, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Waitrose and M&S have not announced limits.

In recent days, photos of empty shelves at various supermarkets have been circulating on social media.

According to the British government, the shortages are largely due to extreme weather in Spain and North Africa, which has affected crops.

A significant portion of the fruit and vegetables consumed in the UK at this time of year comes from those regions.

The British Retail Consortium, which represents supermarkets, says shortages are expected to last for “a few weeks” until the UK growing season gets under way and stores find alternative sources of produce.

Tesco, Britain’s largest grocer, said it was introducing limits as a precautionary measure to ensure customers could get the products they needed.

It said the limits applied to loose fruits and vegetables as well as packaged products.

  • Aldi sets limits of three per customer on the sale of peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes
  • Asda has limited sales of lettuce, salad bags, broccoli, cauliflower and raspberry punnets to three per customer, along with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.
  • And Morrisons, who has set a limit of two on the sale of cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and peppers.

Extreme weather

Crop yields in southern Spain have been affected by unusually cold weather, while in Morocco they have been affected by flooding. Storms there have also caused ferries to be delayed or goods to be canceled.

The UK also receives some produce from domestic growers and the Netherlands at this time of year. But farmers in both countries have reduced the use of greenhouses for growing winter crops because of higher electricity prices.

It follows a period of extreme weather in the UK that has also affected domestic crop yields.

A period of heat waves in June 2022 led to the UK’s fourth-hottest summer on record as temperatures first reached 40°C. And in December, the country was hit by a series of sharp and prolonged frosts.

Tim O’Malley, managing director of Nationwide Produce, one of the UK’s largest fresh food producers, said British carrots, parsnips, cabbages and cauliflowers had been affected by the bad weather.

He said on Tuesday that there may be price increases in the coming weeks due to the shortages.

Olive oil is another product that has been affected by extreme weather, with summer heat waves in Spain affecting yields. As a result, prices in British supermarkets have risen sharply in recent months.

Rachael Flaszczak, owner of The Snug Coffee House in Atherton, near Manchester, said she has been struggling to get eggs for “a while” but has also found it difficult to get to tomatoes, spinach and spinach for the past three weeks. and arugula.

“We go to the supermarket to get our supplies for the next day and all we see are empty, overturned crates,” she said.

Supermarkets have told her they are only getting a small amount of stock, which has run out,

“There’s nothing left at the end of the day when we try to get our supply for the next day,” she said.

“It affects business because we have to travel around to get what we need and that takes more time and we spend more on fuel,” she said.

Ms Flaszczak added: “There are no shortages there [in the EU] so it must have something to do with Brexit.”

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the UK bears the brunt of the shortages.

However, problems have also been reported in Ireland. Tesco says stock levels there have been affected.

Industry sources suggested that the UK may be suffering from lower domestic production and a more complex supply chain.

However, they said Brexit is unlikely to be a factor.

Mr O’Malley blames part of the problems on the way the UK buys its fruit and vegetables.

“I have absolutely no doubt that European continental retailers are likely to get a larger share than the UK,” he said.

Retailers in the UK tend to buy fruit and vegetables on a longer-term model and pay a price for the year, while many European countries use shorter-term models, which buy on a “monthly basis”, he said.

The main impact of new border rules for the import of fruit and vegetables will not be known until January 2024.

Imports from Morocco, which is outside the EU, are already subject to border controls.

The government said it understands “public concerns” over the supply of fresh vegetables, but added that the UK has a “very resilient food supply chain and is well equipped to cope with disruptions”.

Asked if Brexit will have an impact on the shortages, a government spokesperson said: “We remain in close contact with suppliers, who are clear that the current problems regarding the availability of certain fruit and vegetables were mainly caused by bad weather in Spain and North America. Africa where they are produced.”

Do you see where you are food shortages or full shelves? Is your business affected by these restrictions? Share your experiences by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

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