Tesco follows Aldi, Asda and Morrisons with customer limits on fresh produce
Tesco has followed Aldi, Asda and Morrisons in introducing customer limits on certain fresh produce as shortages leave supermarket shelves bare.
The UK’s biggest supermarket has introduced a temporary buying limit of three items per customer on tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers as a precautionary measure.
The supermarket said it was working hard with its suppliers to ensure a good supply of vegetables for customers in light of temporary supply challenges on some lines due to adverse weather conditions abroad.
Aldi has placed limits on peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes as retailers warned the shortages – although expected to be temporary – were likely to last weeks.
An Aldi spokeswoman said: “We are limiting purchases of peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes to three units per person to ensure that as many customers as possible can buy what they need.”
An initial shortage of tomatoes affecting UK supermarkets has since widened to other fruit and vegetables due to a combination of bad weather and transport problems in Africa and Europe.
Asda has introduced a customer limit of three on tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, salad bags, broccoli, cauliflower and raspberries, and Morrisons has set a limit of two items per customer across tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers.
Other supermarkets are understood to be considering similar temporary measures.
On Wednesday, Environment Secretary Therese Coffey told farmers “we can’t control the weather in Spain” when confronted with the news that supermarkets were limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.
In her speech to delegates at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference in Birmingham, Therese Coffey stressed the need for biosecurity but left the conference hall before discussing the supermarket shortages.
It is understood that retailers believe the problems stem from poor yields on the continent and north Africa, and that supplies will improve in the coming days or weeks.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, which represents UK supermarkets, said: “Difficult weather conditions in the south of Europe and northern Africa have disrupted the harvest for some fruit and vegetables including tomatoes and peppers.
“While disruption is expected to last a few weeks, supermarkets are adept at managing supply chain issues and are working with farmers to ensure that customers are able to access a wide range of fresh produce.
“In the meantime, some stores are introducing temporary limits on the number of products customers can buy to ensure availability for everyone.”
Growers and suppliers in Morocco have had to contend with cold temperatures, heavy rain, flooding and cancelled ferries over the past three to four weeks – all of which have affected the volume of fruit reaching Britain.
Supplies from Britain’s other major winter source, Spain, have also been badly affected by weather.
Production problems in Morocco began in January with unusually cold night-time temperatures that affected tomato ripening.
These were compounded by ferry cancellations due to bad weather, hitting lorry deliveries.
Producers locally have also reported having to cut back on their use of greenhouses due to higher electricity prices.
However, UK producers are beginning to move into their growing season, which is expected to ease the longer term situation as retailers also look to alternatives to produce from Spain and northern Africa.