Significant growth in energy prices has driven up the cost of running greenhouses in the UK to a financially unsustainable level for many producers.
According to the British Tomato Growers’ Association (BTGA), several farmers have therefore opted out of planting energy-intensive winter crops, which is causing supply shortages and consequently driving up some vegetable prices.
Greenhouses are essential for the sustainable cultivation of various vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and root vegetables.
Natural gas, electricity and diesel are all required to keep greenhouses running, largely for the heating, maintenance and watering systems. Tight supply combined with firm demand has driven the cost of these inputs to unprecedented levels this year.
The price of cherry tomatoes in the UK rose by 58% year on year in March 2022, reaching an average of GBP 3.83/kg.
Growers in Europe are also facing similar challenges. As such, supplies of imported vegetables are likely to decline, potentially causing shortages in supermarkets in the upcoming months.
The substantial pressure of rising costs has resulted in many vegetable producers being forced to cease production for winter 2022, leading to lower availability of supplies, particularly for tomatoes.
Fast-food chain, McDonald’s has been hit by the UK tomato shortage and consequently is rationing the ingredient by only including one slice of tomato rather than two in some burger options.
Mintec estimates that supplies will remain limited over the short term, potentially resulting in further difficulties for fast food outlets and retailers to source ingredients, and firmer prices.