The price of loose oranges is soaring because of a shortage of supply caused by heavy rains in South Africa and low European stock.

The price of oranges in Tesco has risen from 21p per orange to 28p - equivalent to a 33% increase. A more modest 10% price rise is likely to hit pre-packed product and easy peelers.

Martin Dunnett, trading director of South African fruit importer Capespan, said supplies would be tight for another five

weeks.

"The shortage for the next two or three weeks comes down to low European stocks. After that there will be another couple of weeks of shortage as South African supplies arrive late. It's been cold with a lot of rain in the Eastern Cape," he said.

Early volumes shipped from South Africa amount to just 700 boxes instead of the normal 3,500 as rain stopped harvesting.

However, the conditions are good for setting apples, and supplies of South African Pink Lady apples should arrive in a fortnight.