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UK supermarkets launch Christmas price war with 19p veg offer

<span>Photograph: David Levene/the Guardian</span>
Photograph: David Levene/the Guardian

Aldi, Lidl and Sainsbury’s have kicked off the annual price battle on Christmas vegetables, offering bags of sprouts, carrots, parsnips and potatoes for just 19p.

The price deals, which include swedes and cabbages at 19p each, come despite concerns about rising costs for farmers in the UK amid inflation on labour, fertiliser and fuel for tractors and other vehicles.

In previous years, all the big supermarkets have offered discounts on festive feast veg to try to draw in shoppers, with prices sinking to 15p a bag.

However, this year the battle is likely to be more hard fought as the increasing cost of living pressures have forced cash-strapped households to be more careful about how and where they shop.

Like-for-like prices on Christmas dinner items are up 10%, according to the latest industry data, but shoppers are able to keep a lid on spending by switching to supermarket own-label brands, local markets or cut-price chains.

Sales at Aldi and Lidl are rising by more than 20% while at Morrisons, Waitrose and Ocado have fallen, partly because they are viewed as less competitive on price than their bigger rivals.

Sainsbury’s and Tesco have maintained growth partly by matching Aldi prices on a selection of key items, while Asda has found success with a new cut-price own label range.

Sainsbury’s was the first of the big supermarkets to respond to Aldi and Lidl’s announcement on vegetable deals on Wednesday, with rivals expected to follow later this week. Its offer, which includes a 2.5kg bag of potatoes, compared with Aldi’s 2kg and Lidl’s 1.5kg bags, will be in stores from 18 December, the same day as Aldi, while Lidl is moving three days earlier.

Aldi said its 19p offers would save shoppers up to 80% off six key Christmas vegetables.

The deals are likely to raise concerns about payments to growers, after the National Farmers’ Union warned this week that the UK could be “sleepwalking into further food supply crises” after problems with eggs and turkeys caused by soaring energy costs, bird flu and workforce shortages.

Meanwhile, there have been too plentiful supplies of some vegetables, such as cabbages and potatoes, as the warm autumn brought forward crops and dampened demand for traditionally wintry foods.

Julie Ashfield, the managing director of buying at Aldi UK, said: “Christmas is an expensive time for many families up and down the UK but customers can rest assured that Aldi will always offer the very best value groceries.”

She added: “Shoppers can rest assured that Aldi’s amazing vegetable deals don’t come at a cost to its suppliers. The supermarket carefully plans any promotions and works with British growers on a seasonal or annual fixed cost price. That means, regardless of promotional activity in store, growers receive the same fair price as usual.”