UK supermarkets are currently facing shortages of tomatoes as growers are struggling to afford to heat their greenhouses due to rising energy prices.
Tomato production today is reliant on greenhouses being heated to 20 degrees celsius, but with energy costs continuing to rise and budgets being squeezed, tomato farmers have had to reduce or delay planting crops – leading to a shortage.
Post-Brexit and with new administrative checks, the farming industry has also seen seasonal labour shortages which would previously have been made up of EU workers, causing further delays in the tomato supply chain.
Wholesale gas prices impact all growers and tomato availability is a global issue,” British Tomato Growers Association (BTGA) spokeswoman Julie Woolley told The Grocer.
Whilst an increase in energy prices remains the primary issue, Dr Philip Morley, Horticulturalist and technical officer of the BTGA, says that inflation in other areas has also hit tomato farmers hard.
“Rising fuel costs has meant transportation costs are now higher. Other input costs such as seeds, fertiliser and feed have also increased between 100 and 400 percent,” Morley said.
“These are on top of the health checks on seeds entering the UK, to rule out plant viruses that can affect crops. Those costs are also passed on to the grower,” he added.
However, The National Farmers Union (NFU) have confirmed that these problems are currently affecting all fruit and vegetable growers across the UK – not just tomato farmers.
“British food is under threat… at a time when global volatility is threatening the stability of the world’s food production, food security and energy security,” NFU president Minette Batters told the BBC.
“I fear the country is sleepwalking into further food supply crises, with the future of British fruit and vegetable supplies in trouble,” she said.
It comes as NFU president Minette Batters has warned that “we’re seeing the lowest levels of tomatoes and cucumbers produced since records began in 1985.”