NFU warns current fruit and vegetable shortages could be ‘tip of the iceberg’
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has warned that shortages of some fruit and vegetables in UK supermarkets could be “the tip of the iceberg”.
NFU deputy president Tom Bradshaw said a reliance on imports has left the UK vulnerable to “shock weather events”.
Soaring energy bills exacerbated by the war in Ukraine have also put off some UK vegetable growers, he added.
He said the UK has now “hit a tipping point” and needs to “take command of the food we produce” amid “volatility around the world” caused by the war in Europe and climate change.
It comes as the shortage of tomatoes in UK supermarkets has widened to other fruit and vegetables due to a combination of bad weather and transport problems in Africa and Europe.
Mr Bradshaw told Times Radio on Saturday: “We’ve been warning about this moment for the past year.
“The tragic events in Ukraine have driven inflation, particularly energy inflation to levels that we haven’t seen before.
“There’s a lack of confidence from the growers that they’re going to get the returns that justify planting their glasshouses, and at the moment we’ve got a lot of glasshouses that would be growing the tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, aubergine that are sitting there empty because they simply couldn’t take the risk to plant them with the crops, not thinking they’d get the returns from the marketplace.
“And with them being completely reliant on imports – we’d always have some imports – but we’ve been completely reliant on imports (now). And when there’s been some shock weather events in Morocco and Spain, it’s meant that we’ve had these shortages.
“It’s really interesting that before Brexit we didn’t used to source anything, or very little, from Morocco but we’ve been forced to go further afield and now these climatic shocks becoming more prevalent have had a real impact on the food available on our shelves today.”
On Wednesday, Tesco followed Aldi, Asda and Morrisons in introducing customer limits on certain fresh produce as shortages left supermarket shelves bare.
Tesco and Aldi are limiting customers to three units of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers as a precautionary measure, while Asda is also limiting customers on lettuce, salad bags, broccoli, cauliflower and raspberries, and Morrisons has set a limit of two items per customer across tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers.
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.
Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said on Thursday that British consumers should eat more turnips instead of imported food.
Growers have also warned that a leek shortage will see British-grown supplies exhausted by April, with high temperatures and a lack of rain, followed by a period of cold weather, blamed for creating the “most difficult season ever”.
Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association (BGA), has reportedly said supermarkets could also experience shortages of carrots, cabbage and cauliflower within weeks.
The BGA has also warned that the future of British apple and pear-growing is “on a knife edge”.
A BGA survey of British Apples & Pears Limited (BAPL) members, which represent an estimated 80% of the industry in the UK, found 150,000 orders for new apple and pear trees – a third of the planned 480,000 – have been cancelled this season.
BAPL executive chair Ali Capper said: “The key reason for the lack of investment is supermarket returns that are unsustainable.”
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I don’t believe a word of it. It’s just another ploy to drive up prices. Anyway, no one in their right mind buys tomatoes this time of year as they are usually tasteless.
I notice that the source of the problem is not explained at all but just mentioned as a before and after marker. The reason is that this shortage is Brexit. If one is an EU grower facing rising heating costs for your greeenhouse in a market with reduced supplies from elsewhere due to their weather being affaected by climate brakdown, why would you bother exporting to the UK? Way too much red tape and extra cost.
Strangely enough, nobody in the EU is compaining about a shortage of veg.
The ‘B’ word is avoided by everyone but it is shortly about to come back on the scene once Sunak announces the new Northern Ireland Brexit deal. There will be MPs in the Conservative party and probably the DUP that will kick a fuss and maybe try and block it. A pure Brexit before N Irish stability. Brexit will never fully be resolved while we are out of the Single Market and Customs Union (which we did not vote to leave, no matter what people say).
“the tip of the iceberg” would that be an iceberg lettuce?
Time we returned to growing seasonal fruit and veg big time instead of depending on vengeful suppliers abroad. Here in Wales there is never any visible crops growing in our fields. Veg in our supermarkets are either English or foreign but hardly anything home-grown. One of our national emblems, the daffodil, is usually imported and the other, the leek, is never seen growing in our fields. What a laugh! Wake up Welsh farmers ffs and start growing. Do your job.
Sounds like a Negotiation betWeen farmers and the supermarkets ,like rail or anything else,. Need to set up own supply chain ,
supermarkets hold all the aces, farming is (possibly) the only industry where the buyer dictates the price, and trying to get Welsh farmers to work together even when they’re family, you might as well start a unicorn farm.
Leeks were on sale in the market here in Cornwall today.
They’re not having similar shortages in the EU,
Brexit backers warn about brexit. Nfu are idiots. Though nobody was offering loss of the single market in that idiotic vote. Here we are with tories telling us to eat turnips, yuck.