Brexit and bad planning – along with weather – are to blame for the fruit and vegetable shortage affecting the UK’s supermarkets, Spain’s agriculture minister has said.
Fruits and vegetables increasingly sourced from Morocco and Spain – such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers – have been affected by supply issues.
Retailers and the government have blamed the problem on weather, which hampered crop growth. Drought conditions were experienced in Spain and Morocco over the summer and followed by cold and wet conditions in winter.
Iceland boss, Richard Walker, told Sky News there was “only so much we can do” about the shortages.
“This is climate change”, the executive chairman of Iceland Foods told the Kay Burley Breakfast show on Wednesday.
While the frozen food-focused supermarket has not imposed limits on sales of fruits and vegetables, it said there were lots of empty shelves in stores and that it was in the “same boat as everyone else”.
Sales of frozen fruits and vegetables have increased by 25%, he said, adding that supplies would return to normal in two to three weeks.
But Spain’s agriculture minister, Luis Planas, said the issues were not solely due to weather.
“There is a problem of programming the purchases, which is quite important, and then there has been a lower production as a result of the low temperatures,” he said.
While shops in European Union countries were probably given priority, Mr Planas said, UK shortages were “an
absolutely transitory situation”.
“Brexit was not a great deal, but that is for them to judge,” he added.
Other factors affecting shortages include reduced crop planting at UK greenhouses.
Many UK farmers reduced greenhouse output due to high energy costs.
Salad items are grown in the UK through winter via lit and heated greenhouses and with fertiliser derived from gas – means of production that have risen sharply in cost due to the energy price rises exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
The horticulture industry has not been given the same government supports as other big energy consumers. Some UK farmers were put off planting or planted later in the year, as a result.
Logistical difficulties made matters worse. Poor weather hit sea crossings from Morocco to Spain. Fruit and vegetables from Morocco make two sea crossings: across the straits of Gibraltar and the channel, in a journey that takes four to six days.
Another obstacle in the fruit and vegetable journey came from strikes by Border Force workers and Calais port workers last week.