With half the world’s export of sunflower oil coming directly from Ukraine, the continuing war is putting the supply in serious jeopardy. The United Kingdom’s biggest bottler of sunflower oil is warning they only have a few weeks worth of supplies left and this is causing the price of what stock remains on shelves to drastically increase in pricing.
According to Food and Wine, as the Ukraine war enters its 3rd month, one of the major consequences being seen and felt by U.S. consumers are the increased costs of sunflower oil and its substitute ingredients. The supply chains that were already seeing sales decrease due to COVID restrictions and city lockdowns are now once again in panic with the supply shortages. Supermarkets in the United Kingdom and areas of Europe are beginning to limit the number of bottles shoppers can purchase. The largest supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, Tesco, is putting a limit of three bottles per person on all the remaining cooking oils they have in stock. It is not just being limited to the purchase of sunflower oils.
Since sunflower oil is increasingly in short supply, shoppers are seeking out soybean oil, palm oil and coconut oil for substitutions to their cooking needs. Luckily for allergy sufferers who prefer to use sunflower oil over other types of oils, the Food Standard Agency has stated that any risk of having an allergic reaction to soybean, palm or coconut oil being used by manufacturers as a sunflower oil replacement was low. Emily Miles, the Food Standard Agency’s Chief Executive stated, “Consumers should contact the manufacturer or brand for more information if they are unsure of the content of any product or have concerns about substitution.”
Moreover, as a shopper, if you have not already felt the increase of these cooking oils due to the sunflower oil shortage, you may want to start paying closer attention to the shelf pricing. As of February this year, vegetable oil prices reached a record high, increasing by an immense 23%. This was due to the prices of each metric ton of soybean oil jumping 255%. Palm oil followed suit, with price increases totaling 200%. As a result, these price increases were handed down to consumers partially to help suppliers absorb the costs as well as to potentially help mitigate the lapse in sunflower oil products being felt nationwide.
The sunflower oil shortage has hit western countries harder than most others. Sunflower oil shortages are particularly noticeable in countries like Germany and the United Kingdom because of their love for deep-fried food. Sunflower oil is utilized for cooking due to its previous lower pricing and its high smoking point, which means the oil holds up better in the necessary high temps required for cooking. In order to adjust to the shortage some restaurants in Germany are taking fries off the menu. Not great news if you are a fan of french fries.
With COVID restrictions and city lockdowns, more consumers began cooking at home when delivery or take-out options were no longer available. In order to save money, most shoppers began purchasing generic label oils for their cooking needs. With the current shortage of sunflower oil, the store labels or off brands are also no longer being found on store shelves. In short, no one is immune to the effects of the sunflower oil shortage.