Severe Tomato Shortage Making The Staple Food Hard To Find

A severe tomato shortage in the UK is emerging largely due to global supply chain disruptions.

By Charlene Badasie | Published

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Supermarkets in the U.K are currently experiencing a severe tomato shortage as farmers struggle to heat their greenhouses amid rising energy prices. Modern-day production relies on conservatories being heated to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Celsius). But due to inflation, the planting of crops has been reduced or delayed resulting in a shortage.

Economist and Cautionary Tales podcast host, Tim Harford says his family loves the vegetable. So when he heard about the tomato shortage, he immediately visited a nearby Tesco to assess the situation. “There’s this whole shelf that normally has crates of different kinds of tomatoes,” he told NPR. “And there were just three packs left.”

Now, shoppers a limited to one pack each. The tomato shortage is very familiar due to the Covid-19-related global supply chain crises. But these problems have mostly been resolved, leading experts to cite other reasons for the scarcity. According to Harford, a poor harvest from Spain and Morocco is primarily to blame since this is where the UK gets most of its vegetables.

Late frost and flooding have also destroyed large volumes of crops. However, most people believe Brexit is the major culprit for the tomato shortage. Since the UK isn’t part of the European Union, the country can’t leverage its power over suppliers when things are tough. The farming industry also experienced labor shortages due to a lack of EU employees.

This has caused further delays in the tomato supply chain resulting in a shortage. “Brexit doesn’t make anything easier,” Harford continued. “It’s going to make every problem slightly worse.” Additionally, the cost associated with transporting vegetables from Europe to the UK, and navigating other supply chain issues might be increasing prices.

The price of tomatoes has increased rapidly amid the shortage from £5 to £20 a case, Chef’s Association Federazione Italian Cuochi UK said via The Guardian. According to the agency, the price of canned tomatoes also doubled, from £15 to £30 per case. As a result, some restaurants have been forced to ditch the ingredient. They now offer tomato-less pizzas and pasta dishes.

Enzo Oliver, President of Federazione Italian Cuochi UK, said chefs are using cheese and various vegetables as a base and to thicken sauces. “White pizza, white sauces for pasta or less tomato… We’re making it a trend because prices are going up and because of the tomato shortages,” he said via The Guardian.

Fortunately, British lawmakers say the tomato shortage will end soon, and the vegetable should be prominently displayed in supermarkets in about a month. Meanwhile, UK Minister Therese Coffey says British citizens should follow past practices and eat turnips as an alternative. The crop grows more easily in the local humid climate, making stock abundant.

Luckily, folks in the United States don’t have to worry about the tomato shortage as most of the country’s winter vegetables are imported from Chile, Mexico, and grown in California. Still, it might be a good idea to grab an extra pack or can on the next trip to the grocery store.