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Empty supermarket shelves would become ‘business as usual’ as existing challenges worsen and new ones emerge

Suppliers are warning of continued fruit & veg shortages following the impacts of poor weather and low retailer pricing.

Empty supermarket shelves would become “business as usual” as existing challenges worsened and new ones emerged, Lea Valley Growers Association secretary Lee Stiles warned.

According to Stiles, British glasshouse growers finished the season early “due to high energy costs and low supermarket prices, which has left gaps on shelves”.

Additionally, he warned “adverse weather” was also having an impact on field vegetable supply.

“Empty shelves would seem to be the new business as usual for UK supermarkets,” he said.

Farmers on social platform X echoed Stiles. David Butler posted pictures of “sparse” supermarket shelves alongside the caption, “five years ago you would’ve called this out as unusual; now it’s simply the new normal for the UK!”.

Another suggested low retailer prices were to blame and posted: “All my independents have had plenty. There is nothing we haven’t supplied them with!”

Several suppliers have said they will not continue next season due to low prices and many pack houses have reported elongated price negotiations, which have left it too late to plant early next year, according to Stiles.

“It would appear lessons have not been learned from this year’s issues,” Stiles said, pointing to significant shortages at the start of the year, which resulted in rationing of some core salad lines.

This was likely to be repeated as “glasshouse growers will plant later next year again, and consumers will experience empty shelves again for several months”.

It follows warnings from Tim O’Malley, group MD of Nationwide Produce, that supplies of potatoes were down and prices were on the rise due to flooding. 

The spot, or wholesale price, of potatoes was “currently at least double what you would expect at this time of year and looks like it’s going one way”, he said.

The retail price of a bag of own label maris piper potatoes has increased by as much as 14% in the past year, according to this week’s Key Value Items tracker.