The UK Faces Nationwide Vegetable Shortages

Emilia Haus, Multimedia Photo Editor

Within the past few weeks, British shoppers have faced a lack of vegetables in supermarkets nationwide. Some of Britain’s largest supermarkets, Tesco and Asda, have limited tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other fruits and vegetables to three items per customer.

The United Kingdom’s government has not stated the British exit from the European Union in 2020 as a factor, solely blaming the weather. However, many citizens are quick to point out that nearby European countries are not suffering the same challenges. Experts state that the extra costs associated with Brexit could play a part, but that it is not the main factor.

“I’m not sure Brexit is actually even playing a role on the vegetable shortage. I think the vegetable shortage actually has more to do with the weather in Spain and British government policies regarding subsidies of vegetables,” MPSH AP Comparative Government and AP U.S. Government teacher Kenneth Spiegelman said.

Previously, the National Farmers Union warned that farmers faced increasing challenges in growing certain produce that required heated greenhouses due to higher energy costs. Diseases and elevated fuel costs also pose challenges. 

In addition, the NFU forewarned that the over reliance on imported fresh produce creates vulnerability to unpredictable weather and external factors. This includes the 95% of tomatoes and 90% of lettuce in the U.K. that are imported from Spain and Morocco, where crop yields have suffered from weather and delayed or canceled ferries carrying goods.

With weather and crop issues in Spain and Morocco being the main source of the issue rather than Brexit, other European countries are not having the same scale of issues because of policy differences.

“The other problem is that British government policies regarding supermarkets are very different than the rest of Europe. So this is not the first time something like this has happened. I think the same kind of thing happened about six or seven years ago in the U.K.,” Spiegelman said.

In order to ensure that shortages like this will not happen again, the U.K. needs to implement better policies and anticipation.

“I think better anticipation of markets— like if the weather is going to impact then supermarkets need to stop earlier—but we’re dealing with perishables, so it’s tricky,” Spiegelman said