UK supermarkets ration veg after poor harvests in Europe

Signal of change / UK supermarkets ration veg after poor harvests in Europe

By Anna Simpson / 10 Feb 2017

Tesco and Morrison's are among UK supermarkets limiting the number of vegetables shoppers can buy, following a poor harvest. Tesco asked customers to limit the number of iceberg lettuces they buy to three, citing the impact on availability of bad weather conditions in Spain. Morrison's then asked customers to limit consumption to three heads of broccoli. Sainsbury's and Lidl also said they were working with suppliers to maintain supply. Prices have also risen, with the average market price for lettuce up almost 54% in the week of the bans, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Telegraph reported signs of a nascent black market for vegetables.

So what?

While rationing offers a short-term response to shortage, the longer term solution has to be paths to resilience. Retailers that can both strengthening relationships with suppliers and support them in developing sustainable strategies. Diversification of both crops at the production end and diets at the consumption end will be key. The shortage and rationing comes as other supermarkets, including Sainsbury's, reorganise their stores to encourage people to eat more fruit and vegetables. There's some irony that the shortage coincides with growing recognition of the importance of plant-based diets to meet global nutritional needs, given the pressure on key resources, such as land, feed and water, of meat-intensive diets.


What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

I highly recommend this article (link below) which argues that the vegetable shortages in the UK point to far more systemic issues in the country's food supply and distribution system. And also has this stat to note: "50 percent of the vegetables and 90 percent of the fruit in Britain is non-domestic. A little over half of these imported vegetables come to Britain from Spain." While the article argues for seasonal local produce and reduced reliance on imports, I wonder how self-sufficient the UK can be, really (I ask as a naïve Singaporean)!
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