Fruit and vegetable prices rose by just 0.6% in the last month as claims mounts that supermarket price tactics are fuelling the current shortage.

Exclusive analysis of Assosia data by The Grocer has revealed that prices of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers have barely risen in the past month despite the widespread shortages sweeping the sector.

Pepper prices, for example, are up on average of 1.1%, whilst salad rose by 0.9% and tomatoes just 0.6%, according to the Grocer’s analysis.

Henry Dimbleby, author of the National Food Strategy, blamed Britain’s “weird supermarket culture” for fuelling the shortages over the weekend, highlighting that prices were kept stable regardless of market conditions.

“If there’s bad weather across Europe, because there’s a scarcity, supermarkets put their prices up - but not in the UK,” he told the Guardian.

“The UK food system is, I think, unique, I don’t know another system where the supermarkets have these fixed-price contracts with suppliers. So, basically, you have no effective market.”

The flexibility of European supermarkets on price has ensured their shelves remained fully stocked, agreed Ksenija Simović, senior policy advisor at Copa Cogeca, Europe’s biggest farmer association. “While there has been a squeeze on the supply, the supply to the retailers has been managed,” she told the Grocer.

Britain’s ongoing shortages are due to the “big competition” between supermarkets that has left them more concerned about rising prices than their European counterparts, said Philippe Binard, general delegate of Freshfel Europe, a fresh produce association.

For European farmers, “you go where you are prepared to be paid”.

Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are among the vegetables in short supply at the moment, largely due to extreme weather in Spain and North Africa and compounded by high energy costs afflicting British growers.

By contrast, in Europe where shelves remain full, the prices of fruit and vegetables has risen in response to soaring costs faced by farmers.

Vegetable inflation was at 13.6% and fruit 8.6% in the EU between January 2022 and 2023, according to European Commission data. On some products, retail prices are even up over 50%, said Binard.

Supermarkets rejected the accusation that their price tactics were a cause of the shortages.

“During winter, retailers source much of their summer produce, like tomatoes and lettuces, from countries like Spain and Morocco, where the good weather allows them to grow all year round without the added cost of heating greenhouses,” said Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium.

“This, in turn, allows supermarkets to offer their customers the best value for money at a time when the cost of living has risen sharply.”

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), told the BBC last week that although some producers were on contracts that could be renegotiated for higher production costs, it was not universal.

This left many farmers questioning their future as”if you’re not getting a fair return for what it is costing you, you’re going to contract your business,” she said.

“It’s why we are seeing many of the glasshouses across the country mothballed. They should be producing high quality food, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, to deal with this shortage.”