Tesco removes buying limits on vegetables after it rationed customers

Tesco removes buying limits on tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers after it rationed customers to three items amid fruit and vegetable shortages

  • Tesco is latest retailer to remove buying limits after Aldi and Lidl did so this week

Tesco is the latest major retailer to remove buying limits on fresh produce, three weeks after the supermarket chain began rationing vegetables due to shortages.

The retail giant confirmed on Tuesday that it had removed its buying limit on tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, the Mirror reports.

Britain’s biggest supermarket introduced a cap of three items per customer on the vegetables on 22 February, shortly after other big four supermarkets announced they were limiting purchases.

Aldi and Lidl also lifted their limits on purchases this week, as the supply issues which led to shortages continue to ease. 

Fruit and vegetable shortages began around three weeks ago, with retailers blaming bad weather in Morocco and Spain and related transport problems. 

Picture dated February 27 shows the low stock of fresh fruit and vegetables in Tesco in Ely, Cambs. The retailer confirmed on Tuesday that it had removed its buying limit on tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers

Late last week, Asda also confirmed it had removed limits on purchases of cucumbers, lettuce, salad bags, broccoli, cauliflower and raspberries.

The announcement meant restrictions of three remain only on tomatoes and peppers.

The retailer said availability overall had improved as expected.

Supplies of tomatoes and peppers are expected to be back to normal within a couple of weeks.

Growers have previously warned that supply issues could continue for some weeks. 

Joe Shepherdson, of the Cucumber Growers’ Association, said last week: ‘Plants are going in more each week but harvest is still four weeks away and we have this incoming weather to deal with.’

‘Cold dark days delay plants. It slows them down. Plus you need extra gas to speed them up, which growers are reluctant to do,’ he told The Sun.

Jack Ward, of the British Growers Association, said we will see ‘stocks running low of carrots, leeks, cabbage and cauliflower’.

What caused shortages of fruit and veg in the UK? Rising prices, heating costs and bad weather abroad are all blamed

Cold weather in Spain and Morocco drastically hit the availability of vegetables in British markets along with soaring energy prices.

The supply problems were blamed on bad weather and high energy costs making greenhouses more costly to heat.

Tim O’Malley, of major importer Nationwide Produce, said volatile growing conditions had seen wholesale spot prices for fresh produce lines soar by as much as 300 per cent.

High energy prices – linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – are also a factor because it has become more expensive to heat greenhouses.

Is Brexit to blame? 

While some critics have cited red tape on imports from Europe, industry expert Mr O’Malley said the single biggest factor behind the crisis was ‘Mother Nature’.

He said: ‘I can honestly say that in the 40 years I’ve been in this trade, I’ve never seen such high spot prices across such a broad range of products for such a prolonged period of time.’

He added: ‘It’s not about Brexit – it’s about different buying models’. 

He added that some of the supply issues were down to high energy costs as some growers are waiting to plant their crops until the worst of the cold weather is over. 

Shoppers began sharing their frustration about shortages of tomatoes around February 20.

Meanwhile, residents of EU countries such as Spain, France and Germany shared pictures of stores piled high with vegetables, claiming empty shelves back home are because of leaving the EU.

Supply issues soon spread to other products, leaving shelves bare of a number of fresh produce items including cucumbers, peppers and lettuces.

Tesco, Aldi and Lidl limited purchases of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers to three items per person, while Morrisons set a limit of two items per customer across tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers.

Supermarkets attributed the shortages to a combination of bad weather and related transport problems in north Africa and Europe.

Production problems in Morocco began in January with unusually cold night-time temperatures that affected tomato ripening.

Growers and suppliers in Morocco then had to contend with heavy rain, flooding and cancelled ferries – all of which have affected the volume of fruit reaching Britain.

Supplies from Britain’s other major winter source, Spain, were also badly affected by weather.

These were compounded by ferry cancellations due to bad weather, hitting lorry deliveries.

Producers locally also reported having to cut back on their use of greenhouses due to higher electricity prices.

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey made headlines when, asked about the shortages, she suggested that British consumers should eat more turnips instead of imported food.

She also told farmers at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference in Birmingham ‘we can’t control the weather in Spain’ when confronted with the news that supermarkets were limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.

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