High energy costs have led to less winter production in greenhouses in Britain and the Netherlands, which has resulted in tomatoes, cucumbers, and everyday vegetables running out of stock.
After a winter of high electricity bills and an ongoing cost-of-living crisis, people in the United Kingdom are now struggling to get hold of tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers in a food shortage that could last for another month.
Such has been the lack of the everyday vegetables that Therese Coffey, the minister for the environment, food, and rural affairs, said people could turn to local vegetables such as turnips. “It’s important to make sure that we cherish the specialisms that we have in this country,” she told parliament.
“I’m led to believe by my officials after discussion with industry retailers…the situation will last about another two to four weeks. It’s important that we try and make sure that we get alternative sourcing options,” she said.
The shortage is a result of multiple factors. Notably, the high energy costs in the UK in the past winter have led to less winter production in greenhouses in Britain and the Netherlands. Certain crops, like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and brinjals are grown in greenhouses because of the low temperature in these regions.
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UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) have said they are finding it difficult to meet their energy costs, partly due to the Ukraine war and the reduction of European dependence on Russian fuel.
Supermarket company Sainsbury’s former head Justin King was among a section of people who pointed the finger at Britain exiting the European Union, following a 2016 referendum. Notably, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is currently in Northern Ireland to discuss a trade deal. Though the formal exit happened in 2020, there is a significant volume of rules and regulations to be negotiated between the UK and other countries.
The BBC quoted Ksenija Simovic, a senior policy adviser at Copa-Cogeca, a group that represents farmers and farming co-operatives in the EU, as saying while Brexit wasn’t solely responsible for the current lack of fresh produce, it hadn’t helped. Earlier, as part of the common single market, the movement of goods between the UK and Europe was done more freely. Now, restrictions have been introduced.
Due to the decline in Russian imports, the European Union is currently experiencing an energy crisis. The developing world may fall into energy poverty due to Europe’s increasing demand.
British food and farming minister Mark Spencer said he met with executives of Britain’s major grocers on Monday to discuss alleviating the supply issues. “I have also asked them to look again at how they work with our farmers and how they buy fruit and vegetables, so they can further build our preparedness for these unexpected incidents,” he said in a statement.
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