Fruit and vegetable producers are warning that shortages are lasting longer than expected and could last up to three months.
Major UK supermarkets are restricting sales of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and lettuce – among other produce – in a bid to combat the problems.
The Lea Valley Growers Association said several growers were delaying planting crops due to rising energy costs.
“The majority of the tomatoes, peppers and aubergines will not be in bulk until May, so it will take longer than a couple of weeks,” Secretary Lee Stiles told the BBC.
“Some packhouses in Lea Valley have closed for a few days due to a lack of supplies, and others are losing workers as they have only been able to offer three-hour work a day instead of full shifts for the past few weeks.”
The Lea Valley Growers Association has around 80 members from Greater London, Hertfordshire and Essex. Its growers supply around three quarters of cucumbers and peppers in the UK.
Bad weather in Spain and Africa has been blamed for the shortages, but the association said growers’ delay in planting made the situation worse.
“It is too late for UK producers to step in and try to make up some of the deficit,” added Mr Stiles.
“If we were to plant tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in December, we would be picking now.
“And if we were to plant cucumbers the first week of January as usual, we would be picking on Valentine’s Day as we always do.”
Although the government said yesterday the supply problems should be resolved within a month, Mr Stiles believes it will take longer.
He warned overseas growers who are likely to sell locally first once their crops are back on track in order to get a higher price for their goods while avoiding fuel costs and border taxes.
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey told the House of Commons: “My officials believe that after discussions with industry and retailers we expect the situation to continue for around two to four weeks.
“It is important that we try to ensure that we are given alternative sourcing options. That is why the department is already in discussion with the dealers.
“That is why there will also be further talks, led by ministers, so that we can try to get over this and avoid similar situations in the future.
“While we cannot control the weather, it is important that we try to ensure supply does not continue to be as frustrated as these unusual weather events have been.”
She later added, “I hope this will be a temporary issue.”
Ms Coffey also suggested people “appreciate the specialties that we have in this country” by eating seasonal vegetables like turnips.
MEPs dismissed claims that Brexit was to blame for the shortages.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said “food security is national security” and his party would commit to “buying, making and selling more in Britain”.
Experts told Metro.co.uk the reasons behind the shortages people are seeing in supermarkets this week.
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https://metro.co.uk/2023/02/24/fruit-and-veg-shortages-could-last-until-may-growers-fear-18340618/ The fruit and vegetable shortage could last until May, growers fear