When it comes to buying food, consumers (understandably) take it for granted that their favourite vegetables will be stocked up and ready for purchase when they get to the store. However, due to poor weather conditions in countries which export vegetables to the UK, retail stores are suffering a severe shortage – particularly with lettuce and broccoli, but many others are also in short supply. If you visit your local supermarket and notice some empty shelves in the vegetable aisle – you will now understand why. What weather conditions?

The UK imports as much as 50% of their overall stock of vegetables from countries across the world; including Italy, Ireland and France. The main importers though are Spain and the Netherlands. Spain has suffered unprecedented weather conditions recently, with freezing conditions and the heaviest rainfall in 30 years affecting their ability to grow crops. In turn, this has affected their capacity to provide UK supermarkets with popular vegetables and consumers are now facing rations, to help ensure all customers get their fair share.

Who is affected?

Many supermarkets, including Tesco and Asda, rely heavily on the importing of vegetables from foreign suppliers, and these are two of the major chains implementing restrictions on customers. It is not just individual consumers who are suffering at the hands of the vegetable drought. Restaurants, cafes and other businesses which rely heavily on supermarkets to supply vegetables, are also restricted with their purchases. Lidl do not currently have any restrictions.

Price rises

Due to this unexpected shortage, many supermarkets are turning to the US to import their vegetable supplies, which is considerably more expensive than more local European suppliers. This means UK consumers may end up paying more for their favourite vegetables. The cost of an iceberg lettuce, for example, has risen by 26p since the same time last year. The price rises are noticeable across the board though and many supermarkets are refusing to pay such high prices for their produce.

The future

There is no guarantee on how long the vegetable shortage will last, as it depends on whether light and weather conditions improve. However, with the spring and summer months on the horizon, there should be light at the end of the tunnel for consumers. In the meantime, individual consumers may need to find other ways of getting their vitamins until the drought is over or be prepared to pay a bit extra for their favourite vegetables.

Produce section – vegetables by piropiro3 licensed under Creative commons 4