Seasonal production cycles and rising milk prices in Greece have led to a shortage of feta in the UK and beyond, according to cheese industry insiders and vigilant shoppers.
Panos Manuelides, founder of Leyton-based Greek food importer Odysea, said while the UK had seen “shortages of feta on the supermarket shelves since October”, there had also been shortages “even in Greek supermarkets”.
Manuelides put the scarcity down to seasonal production cycles in Greece and the rising price of milk in the country.
Nikos Stavropoulos, MD of Olympus Dairy UK and Hellenic Dairies, meanwhile, pointed to the fact that cheese production in 2021 could not keep up with increased retail demand – driven by increased consumption at home.
In common with most food commodities, dairy prices have surged in many countries in recent months. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said on Thursday that December global dairy prices were up 1.8% on the previous month and by almost 17% for the year compared with 2020.
A spokesman for Derbyshire-based Bradbury’s, which imports cheese from Greece, said it had “experienced some delays in orders due to milk shortages in the last couple of months”.
The apparent absence of feta from British shelves has affected some shoppers.
A New Year’s Day tweet speculated about a “feta shortage in the UK” after the poster had not “been able to find some in two UK supermarkets”.
“You are right! Couldn’t find any this past week”, read one respondent, who recounted sharing “our frustration” with “a random Greek at the cheese isle [sic]”.
The first frustrated feta fan wondered if the shortage had “anything to do with full customs controls (started today)?” referring to the new, post-Brexit border checks introduced on 1 January.
However, insiders such as Manuelides said the dearth of feta was “not really” anything to do with Brexit or the controls, as the shortage had become apparent several weeks ago.
“I do not believe any of this is due to the recent border changes,” a Bradbury’s spokesman added.
Analysis of Assosia data shows some feta SKUs have shown as out of stock across the mults at various times since the start of November. Sainsbury’s appears to have seen the most instances, with six out of 11 feta lines unavailable between 21 November and 1 December.
A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said though “some stores might be running low on some lines”, it was “still receiving regular deliveries of our most popular lines”. She added: “Where we don’t have the exact product, customers should be able to find an alternative.”
Elsewhere, a Waitrose representative said: “We are aware of the pressures on this area but have planned and worked closely with our suppliers to ensure that we continue to have feta available for our customers.”
A Morrisons spokeswoman said: “We’re aware of this issue in the market, however our supply remains unaffected.”