Most of the UK’s sunflower oil comes from Ukraine

Waitrose and Morrisons have begun rationing the number of cooking oil bottles customers can buy amid shortages caused by the war in Ukraine.

Waitrose has put up signs in some stores telling shoppers they can only buy two items per person, in a further signal that the crisis in eastern Europe is causing widespread disruptions to global supply chains.

“We want to ensure customers continue to have a choice of cooking oil so we are asking them to buy no more than two units each,” a Waitrose spokesman said.

Online shoppers have also seen a similar warning when browsing Waitrose’s website, which does not let them add more than two items to the basket.

“To help more customers get the goods they need you can only order two from the sunflower oil category,” it reads.

Morrisons is also now restricting the number of items in the sunflower oil category to two items per person.

The vast majority of the UK’s sunflower oil comes from Ukraine and Russia, with the shortages forcing some suppliers to replace sunflower oil with rapeseed oil.

Sainsbury’s has recently put up signs in stores telling customers “it may be necessary to substitute sunflower oil for other oils in some products”.

“Rapeseed oil is the most likely replacement, but other oils may be used,” the supermarket told shoppers, adding it was taking every precaution to ensure there was no allergen risk deriving from the substituted oils.

The shortages have also caused prices to hike in recent weeks. Last week, The Grocer reported that Tesco’s own-label sunflower oil and vegetable oil one-litre and three-litre SKUs had risen from £1.09 to £1.20 and £3.25 to £3.50 respectively, whilst Sainsbury’s one-litre sunflower oil bottles had risen from £1.09 to £1.20 [Assosia].

Meanwhile, industry sources have warned that sunflower oil stocks are drying up at a rapid pace. “No one’s going to have long-term supply this year,” a source told The Grocer. “I can’t see anyone will have any stock beyond a month.”