In recent weeks, after disrupted harvests in north Africa reduced supply and inflation forced industry buyers to spend more on less from key markets such as Spain, British shoppers have faced a shortage of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
Tax office data showed Britain imported 266,273 tons of vegetables in January 2023 – the smallest amount for any January since 2010, when the population was around 7% 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.
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.”
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.