UK produce shortages and the role of supermarkets | WARC | The Feed
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UK produce shortages and the role of supermarkets
First it was tomatoes, now carrots may soon be in short supply across the UK as a combination of factors hits food supply chains, and supermarkets face having to explain why produce shelves remain empty.
- Cold weather in Morocco and Spain has been blamed for the recent disruption to the supply of salad vegetables to the UK. And while that’s undoubtedly a major factor, the additional problems that Brexit has brought for importers hasn’t helped.
- Meanwhile, the UK’s own salad-growing industry has been rendered economically unviable by soaring energy costs, and – Brexit again – labour shortages are hitting the wider horticulture sector (according to the NFU, some £60m worth of food rotted in fields in the first half of last year because not enough people were available to harvest crops).
- Horticulture has also been badly affected by extreme weather and higher input costs, from seeds to fertilisers, and the NFU warns that supplies of leeks, cauliflowers, carrots and parsnips could be hit later this year.
Why it matters
Just eight retail chains account for over 90% of UK grocery sales, and this concentration, along with a focus on driving down price, has been a factor – political indifference is another – in destabilising UK agriculture and increasing dependence on imports.
“It’s a symptom of a dysfunctional food system,” says food writer Jay Rayner. “It’s a symptom of an overly mighty supermarket sector failing to behave like the custodian of the food supply chain it has become.”
Produce shortages and higher prices may be more than a short-term problem and supermarkets will be in the front line of explaining why that’s the case.
“We have become more reliant on imports ... with weather events, disease problems, you don’t need many things to go wrong whereby you create a shortage” – Minette Batters, NFU president, speaking to the Financial Times.
Sourced from Financial Times, Guardian, Statista
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