By Reece Moore
The cold and wet winter months have wreaked havoc on European vegetable harvests, especially in Spain, Italy and Greece. This has had a major domino effect on the prices and availability of certain vegetables in Britain such as courgettes and lettuce.
Various supermarkets have had to react to the current shortages by increasing prices, and in some cases rationing. For instance, Morrisons have put a limit on bulk-buying of iceberg lettuces since so many people were doing so due to shortages in other retailers. They have “imposed a two-lettuce limit and banned shoppers from buying more than three heads of broccoli per customers across its 492 stores” The Independent reports. Furthermore, The Co-op has, according to the BBC, asked customers to “shop responsibly,” but is yet to put any purchase limits on their products.
It’s not just in-store that is being effected, online shopping has also seen some major changes. Cambridge news claims that “iceberg, sweet gem and romaine varieties [of lettuce] have been taken off sale completely by some online.”
According to the Spanish association of fruit and vegetable producers (FEPEX), the current ‘greens’ shortage will probably last until April.
The UK is doing what it can, with a lot of the lettuces that are currently available on supermarket shelves probably coming from the west coast of the USA.
Of course, this could have major effects on our spending habits, and maybe beneficial ones. For example, Teresa Wickham, when appearing on BBC Breakfast said that “you could just go for frozen broccoli,” or you would have to put up with the high cost. This may force people to explore alternatives to their usual shopping choice, leading to greater variety, and possibly a reduction in future strain put upon vegetable farmers by very high continental demand.
Indeed, it isn’t just our diets that are at risk. Instead this is just another blow for those that already struggle to feed their family; never mind feed them healthy food. The Mirror reports that “shortages abroad are likely to increase wholesale prices here of courgettes by 140 per cent, broccoli by 122 and lettuce by 63 per cent.” This could have a huge strain on already financially challenged families.
However, this is not something that has never happened before, though it doesn’t happen often. Nature has shown that it has no care for the demand and supply mechanisms that we are so used to, and hopefully it will have a positive impact on the heightening demand and diet options of people in the UK and around the EU.
On the other hand, if you can’t quite go through a couple of months without having your fill of crisp, iceberg lettuce, then do not fret. The Daily Mail revealed that there is a “hopeful entrepreneur… selling a box of iceberg lettuces on Gumtree,” of course there will be a bit of inflation, with the box of twelve lettuce heads going for a measly £50 (£4.16 each).
Photograph: Amanda Slater via Flickr