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Fruit and veg shortages? 'Blame Brexit,' says former supermarket chief

A former supermarket chief has warned that Brexit is a significant contributing factor to the current shortages of fruit and vegetables in the UK.

The amount of fresh produce that consumers can purchase is being restricted due to supply concerns that have left shop shelves empty.


The main supermarkets have attributed the issues that followed the region's severe rain, thunderstorms, and snowstorms on "challenging weather conditions" in Spain and Morocco.


Nevertheless, Justin King, a former CEO of Sainsbury's, told LBC that Brexit was also a contributing factor, because it had a detrimental impact on UK greenhouses that grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.


To keep their supplies of key commodities like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers in check, Tesco, Aldi, Asda, and Morrisons have implemented rations.


"North Kent, in Thanet, has the biggest greenhouses in Europe, which were formerly stocked with peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes," King remarked.


But those greenhouses have truly suffered from two significant aspects. I hate to say it, Nick, but Brexit has seriously impacted this industry.


Save British Farming, an anti-Brexit advocacy group, said that the UK's choice to leave the EU was to blame for supply problems, not the weather in Spain. "The reason we have #foodshortages in Britain is because of this @Conservatives govt and their #Brexit," they stated.


King said that the poor weather in Spain and Morocco, as well as the government's decision to remove retailers from the energy support program, were partly to blame.


Since Brexit, the UK has depended increasingly on goods produced in Morocco, making the nation vulnerable to any problems in this area.


Morocco experienced production issues in January due to extremely chilly nighttime temperatures that hampered tomato ripening.


Ferry cancellations because of inclement weather, which affected lorry deliveries, added to these problems.


When farmers expressed concern about the news that stores were restricting the sale of fruits and vegetables on Wednesday, Therese Coffey, the environment secretary, responded, "We can't control the weather in Spain."


Coffey emphasized the importance of biosecurity in her remarks to attendees at the National Farmers' Union (NFU) conference in Birmingham, but she exited the conference room without addressing the problems with retail supplies.


It is known that retailers think the issues are the result of substandard yields in Africa and the continent, and that supplies will get better in the next few days or weeks.


Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the UK's Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) said in a recent interview with the Guardian that problems with supply were down to “a whole lot of issues” including shortages of labour and high energy costs, as well as the weather.


He said cafes, hospitals, care homes and independent traders could be among the worst affected by the shortages as they were supplied by wholesalers that might be more vulnerable than big supermarkets to short-term shifts in production.


The problems could last several weeks, until UK production kicks in, but Jenney said those with glasshouses in the UK, who might usually be planting at this point in the year, were also facing a “horrendous cost of production” as a result of increases in labour, fertiliser and energy costs, and were likely to be reining in their plans as a result.



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