Eastern Eye (UK)

Food shortages ‘will get worse’


BRITONS already reeling from the biggest rise in food prices since 1977 may have to get used to shortages of fresh vegetables as soaring costs and unpredicta­ble weather hit domestic production.

Shoppers have faced a shortage of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in recent weeks after disrupted harvests in north Africa reduced supply, while inflation forced industry buyers to spend more on less from key markets such as Spain.

Tax office data showed Britain imported 266,273 tonnes of vegetables in January 2023 - the smallest amount for any January since 2010, when the population was around seven per cent smaller than it is now.

Compoundin­g matters, UK production of salad ingredient­s is expected to hit a record low this year as costly energy deters British producers from planting crops in greenhouse­s. The tight conditions have helped to push British food price inflation to levels not seen for almost 50 years.

Industry data from market researcher Kantar on Tuesday (28) showed UK grocery price inflation hit a record 17.5 per cent in the four weeks to March 19, underscori­ng the problem for policymake­rs.

Many UK food retailers are buying less, knowing their customers cannot afford to spend so much, taking a hit to their profits in the process.

Jack Ward, CEO of the British Growers Associatio­n, said there was now a question mark over the future of Britain’s fresh food producers.

“There’s a limit to how long growers can carry on producing stuff at a loss,” he said.

Growers, farming unions and shop owners warn of more shortages ahead, possibly soon spreading to other home grown crops, including leeks, cauliflowe­rs and carrots because of summer drought and winter frosts. Apple and pear growers have also said not enough trees are being planted to maintain orchards.

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