Will rationing lead to panic buying?


22 February 2023
As UK supermarkets announce fresh veg restrictions, industry figures analyse the affects and reasonings behind it.

SUPERMARKETS across the UK have begun rationing fresh food items in a move that is expected to last “weeks”.

Both Asda and Morrisons have introduced the rationing. The crisis has developed in recent weeks as a result of soaring energy costs, which have affected greenhouse and field growers. Other supermarkets are understood to be considering similar temporary measures.

Greenhouses have been switched off in a bid to make ends meet, leaving a dearth of home-grown produce, and field growers, including potato growers, have also being reassessing the cost of production, prompting a warning from NFU President Minette Batters.

Minette told the industry body's conference in Birmingham recently: "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."

The farming union chief said there are concerns over the production of field veg including potatoes, cauliflower and purple sprouting broccoli, and said she hoped 'panic buying' could be avoided.

Chief Executive of the British Growers' Association, Jack Ward, has warned that Britain is in for a 'difficult year' and has said some growers are choosing to plant wheat over vegetables as they generate greater profit for them.

"Growers simply aren't going to put crops in the ground if they can't see a viable return from them," he revealed in an inews interview. "At the moment the rate of inflation for fresh produce is significantly below the general rate of inflation for food." 

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He said supermarkets are not prepared to pass on the costs so there isn't enough money in the category to provide the sorts of returns everybody needs to keep going.

The Best for Britain campaign group says Brexit has also hit supply chains over the past few years, and warned of empty shelves on a regular basis without an effort to remove trade friction with the EU. This view has been echoed by many social media commentators, who have said the supermarket shortages and restrictions are not as apparent in Europe as in the UK. 

Chief Executive Naomi Smith said: “Brexit is not responsible for the adverse conditions which have impacted crops this year, but it has made UK supply chains less resilient and increased costs for both importers and exporters.”

Extreme weather conditions overseas, including flooding and cold temperatures, have also taken their toll.

Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, Andrew Opie, said: “Difficult weather conditions in the south of Europe and northern Africa have disrupted harvest for some fruit and vegetables. While disruption is expected to last a few weeks, supermarkets are adept at managing supply chain issues and are working with farmers to ensure that customers are able to access a wide range of fresh produce.”

Sources: Sky News / LBC / Best For Britain / inews

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