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British Supermarkets struggle with fresh produce shortages, but local shops say otherwise

British supermarkets are struggling with low sales of fresh produce like tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers while local shops on the other hand are benefiting from the crisis.

Climate change, the increasing cost of logistics caused by Brexit, and rising energy costs for growers caused by the war in Ukraine, have led to price increases which have made it difficult for supermarkets like Tesco (TSCO.L), Asda, Morrisons, Aldi, and Lidl as they limit the number of fresh produce items a shopper can buy. According to Market researcher NIQ, total value sales in the fresh produce category grew just 1.1% over the four weeks, with a unit or volume decline of 5.4%. It said supermarkets struggled to meet the demand for tomatoes, where unit sales fell 17.6%, and for peppers, with unit sales down 16.8%.

However, not everyone is experiencing this difficulty. Local businesses are making the most of this crisis. “The prices may have gone up, but the shelves are not empty,” says Simon Conley, a local businessman. No doubt there is a shortage but it’s not the worst case he has ever seen. "The problem is that your supermarkets have contracts, so if you’re a supplier, and you’re going to get more money from somewhere else, where are you going to send them?”, he added.

 Mike Noone who used to run R Noone & Son, a fresh produce supplier and has around 40 years of experience in the field foresaw the shortage. "The majority of winter vegetables, tomatoes, lettuces, cucumbers, come from the south of Spain, in Murcia. You can drive for 50 miles, and it’s all under polythene," he says. The unseasonably cold weather conditions have caused the crops in what’s known as ‘Europe’s orchard’ to be adversely affected. According to Mike, when there is a shortage, one must be ready to pay more.”

 “The nub of the point is that a), we’ve had freakish weather, and b) the supermarkets are not keen on breaking their contracts.” Many suppliers feel that supermarkets have been selling food at low rates for a long time in an effort to seize an increased market share and are now paying the price for it.

While this shortage may last until the end of March, independent sellers are making the most of the situation as the shortage in supermarkets has led to an increase in sales from independent businesses.





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