Tomato grower calls for support after ‘perfect storm’ causes shortages

Food shortages: Supermarkets to limit shoppers

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A tomato grower has called for Government support as the UK faces vegetable shortages in supermarkets across the country. Andy Roe of Flavourfresh, Southport, listed the issues his industry is facing at the moment.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today show, he said: “There are none (tomatoes) in the shops at the moment due to a number of factors.

“Obviously, the energy market is having an effect across Europe. The Spanish growers aren’t able to use any heating because it is too expensive.

“The Dutch growers would usually grow with LED lights, they have reduced their areas quite significantly. The weather in Spain and a virus over in Morocco are causing availability issues.

“All combined, this has caused the perfect storm.”

Mr Roe says his industry needs more support, including investment in better infrastructure so that vegetable growers can be more profitable.

He added: “We work to a small margin. We have one of the most modern greenhouses in Europe, but what this sector really would benefit from would be some sort of recognition from the Government to help us.

“Invest in better structures like this that would create more volume, and more food security for the British public going forward.

“If we had investment for new infrastructure and better quality greenhouses, that would make us more profitable going forward to be able to reinvest.”

The greenhouses used for growing vegetables like tomatoes use a lot of energy, but energy prices have now put off some growers from producing tomatoes and other vegetables.

Phil Pearson, group development director at the UK’s largest tomato grower – APS Produce – has said that the delayed start to the growing cycle means it will be another two months before most British tomatoes are ready for picking.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Pearson added that tomatoes will remain scarce until the end of April.

He said that this year we have “grown later to try to recover some value because everybody’s been squeezed on prices – not just for energy, but fertiliser, labour, everything has gone up.

“So instead of starting [harvesting] end of March, it’ll be more like the end of April into May.”

Mr Pearson warned the country will go from “famine to feasting” as all growers will wait until the end of May, leading to a surge in supply.

Minette Batters, the head of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), warned earlier this week that vegetables may have to be rationed due to shortages.

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She said: “Everybody wants to avoid rationing, effectively, which is what we saw with eggs in December.

“But I think there are going to be challenges on availability of some food items.”

Speaking to Sky News, she also called for increased Government investment in the industry.

Ms Battters continued: “The real danger here is that unless we can give farmers and growers the confidence to keep investing, they’re producing less. That will drive further cost inflation for consumers. That’s what we want to avoid.

“This is, of course, all driven by the price of gas, which has come down, but is still three times higher than it was in 2019.”

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