Tomato shortage hits supermarkets after poor weather across Europe and Africa
Supermarkets across Britain have been hit with a shortage of tomatoes after a wave of bad weather across Europe and Africa disrupted supply chains.
Growers and suppliers in Spain and Morocco have had to contend with cold temperatures, heavy rain, flooding and cancelled ferries over the past three to four weeks.
Production problems in Morocco began in January with unusually cold night-time temperatures that affected tomato ripening.
UK importers have become increasingly reliant on Morocco due to Brexit, which has affected with other tomato-producing European nations.
Spain remains a primary source of tomatoes for the UK, which has also been affected by colder weather in recent weeks.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Difficult weather conditions in the south of Europe and northern Africa have disrupted harvest for some fruit and vegetables including tomatoes.
“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.”
A spokesperson for the British Tomato Growers Association (BTGA) said recent shortages are “predominantly a consequence of the lack of imported product”.
“The British tomato season will soon begin and we expect significant volumes of British tomatoes on shelves by the end of March and into April 2023,” they added.
Farmers have repeatedly warned of mounting pressure on the industry from soaring energy and fertiliser prices.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has warned Britain is at risk of “sleepwalking” into a food crisis. In December, the NFU warned that the country could face shortages of items including tomatoes and cucumbers over the coming months.
NFU vice president David Exwood said: “We are repeatedly seeing a predictable combination of factors such as energy costs and weather leading to empty supermarket shelves. Our UK food resilience is currently gone. The government needs to take this seriously.”
Pressure on supply has led to rising prices, with the cost of a kilogram of tomatoes rising from £2.09 in January 2020 to £2.96 last month, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. Prices have risen particularly sharply since the start of last year.
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