Supermarket chains in the United Kingdom have started to ration fruits and vegetables as a nationwide shortage of fresh produce continues.
Tesco, the nation’s leading grocery retailer, has introduced limits on tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers to three items per customer, according to a report from The Mirror. Budget supermarket Aldi implemented an identical move, while the purchase limits at Asda also apply to lettuce, bagged salad, broccoli, cauliflower, and raspberries. Customers at Morrisons can purchase two items per individual when shopping for tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and peppers.
Lidl was the latest supermarket chain to introduce limits on fruit and vegetable purchases as cold weather in Spain and Morocco impacts the availability of fresh produce in the United Kingdom, according to a report from BBC News. “Whilst we still have good availability across the majority of our stores, due to a recent increase in demand we have taken the decision to temporarily limit the purchase of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers to three items per person,” a spokesperson for Lidl told the outlet. “This will help to ensure that all of our customers have access to the products they need.”
Beyond growers in the warmer climates of Spain and Morocco, rising prices for energy, fertilizer, and animal feed have introduced cost pressures for British farmers, leading one-third to change their cropping plans, according to a report released last summer by the National Farmers Union. Some producers, for instance, are pivoting from growing milling wheat for bread to growing feed wheat for livestock because of the lower fertilizer required for the latter.
“Costs are rising rapidly on farms across the country and across all sectors,” National Farmers Union President Minette Batters said in a statement. “It’s already having an impact on the food we’re producing as a nation as well as leading to a crisis of confidence among farmers.”
British Farming Minister Mark Spencer met earlier this week with grocery executives to discuss the shortages. A statement from the British Retail Consortium, a trade association that represents supermarkets, said that consumers can expect relief in the coming weeks and that suppliers “acknowledged the importance of food security, but noted that this requires a wider strategy involving government, farmers, food manufacturers, retailers and hospitality,” according to a report from Reuters.
The shortages in the United Kingdom occur as the global economy continues to grapple with supply chain bottlenecks and the Russian war in Ukraine, which have increased worldwide food and energy prices. Customers in the United States have not been immune from the phenomena: expenses for food at home increased 11.3% between January 2022 and January 2023, while costs for food away from home rose 8.2% over the same period. A recent bout of the avian flu has likewise decreased the size of American poultry flocks, raising costs for chicken and turkey while causing a severe increase in prices for eggs.
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Despite the persistent increases in food expenses, President Joe Biden responded last week to an inflation data release by contending that “we have made progress on inflation, but we have more work to do.” He touted efforts from his administration to reduce prices and said Republicans undermine the economy by opposing his spending agenda.