Pictures on social media over the last week have highlighted a shortage of tomatoes on UK supermarket shelves, as a number of factors come together to limit supplies.
High energy costs have reduced overwintered greenhouse production in the UK and northern Europe, while issues blamed on Brexit and production disruption in other key areas such as Spain and Morocco have also limited availability.
“Wholesale gas prices impact all growers and tomato availability is a global issue,” British Tomato Growers Association (BTGA) spokeswoman Julie Woolley told The Grocer.
Dr Philip Morley, Horticulturalist and technical officer of the BTGA, added that inflation in other areas had also hit tomato farmers hard. “Rising fuel costs has meant transportation costs are now higher. Other input costs such as seeds, fertiliser and feed have also increased between 100 and 400 percent,” he said. “These are on top of the health checks on seeds entering the UK, to rule out plant viruses that can affect crops. Those costs are also passed on to the grower.”
At the same time, the Almeria region of Spain is struggling with reduced production due to adverse weather: high autumn and early winter temperatures, followed by a prolonged cold spell. According to COEXPHAL – the Association of Organisations of Fruit and Vegetable Producers of the province of Almería, the volume of tomatoes sold between weeks 5 and 7 was 22 per cent lower than in the same period of the previous year.
Luis Miguel Fernandez, manager of COEXPHAL, said, “We did not expect a scenario like this, with high temperatures practically until December, which also accelerated the production throughout the first part of this campaign.”
At the same time, many areas of Morocco, another potential source of winter tomatoes, have been affected by severe flooding. The shortage has also affected other out-of-season greenhouse crops, such as tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.