British farmer who tried to warn supermarkets reveals what’s behind fruit & veg crisis

Posted March 1, 2023 by: Admin #News

Supermarkets in the UK are facing unprecedented shortages of fruit and vegetables, which can be traced back to production issues in Southern Europe, caused by an unseasonal hot spell followed by an unusual cold spell.


In Morocco, for example, where farmers grow tomatoes that would typically be ripe and ready to pick in January, Steve Cornwell, owner of MBJSC Produce, said that he saw only green tomatoes. This phenomenon was replicated in other European countries such as Spain, Greece and Crete, where the temperatures dropped to as low as 4C overnight. The delay caused by the supermarkets’ failure to listen to Steve’s warnings meant that product was sold to other European countries instead.

Supermarkets are now calling Steve, desperate to fill empty shelves, and Lidl is the latest retailer to limit sales of certain fruit and veg such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, following similar moves by Aldi, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons. Aldi and Tesco are limiting items to three per customer, while Morrisons is letting shoppers buy two of each item.

Brexit has also fuelled the crisis, with transport companies reluctant to come to the UK because of the paperwork and logistics involved, as well as the visas they need for their drivers. Additionally, growers in Morocco are faced with a 3.5% duty on imports to the UK, which will rise to 5.7% in July. Meanwhile, to send their produce to the EU in the winter, they don’t have to pay any duty.


The crisis is compounded by the fact that in Europe, supermarkets set prices weekly, so if the market is short, they will pay the higher prices. However, British supermarkets set a price for the whole season and are reluctant to increase it, meaning they end up missing out on the produce. Additionally, huge hikes in energy prices have had a massive impact on growers like Steve and Morna, whose cost of keeping gas boilers going to heat their four cucumber nurseries has risen threefold since last year. Some have been hit even harder, with 20 of the 80 growers in the association shutting down completely, unable to cope with the rising prices of oil and electricity, as well as transport costs, diesel and packaging.

Overall, this crisis highlights the importance of supermarkets listening to growers’ concerns and adjusting prices accordingly. Additionally, the impact of Brexit and rising energy prices needs to be addressed to avoid similar issues in the future.


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