‘Cost of Net Zero’ — Fruit and Vegetable Rationing in Britain Could Last Until May, Warn Farmers

A photograph taken on February 24, 2023, shows a few peppers among empty shelves at a Sain
DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images

Shortages of fruits and vegetables in British supermarkets could last for months, according to a leading farmers’ organisation, amid a poor growing season in Spain in combination with sky-high energy prices.

Over the past week, four major British supermarkets, Aldi, Asda, Morrisons, and Tesco, have all resorted to instituting rationing measures for certain products, with shortages of items such as cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes hitting the shelves.

The Lea Valley Growers Association (LVGA), which has around 80 members in the Essex, Hertfordshire, and Greater London region and typically account for 75 per cent of the British cucumber and pepper crops, told the BBC that poor weather conditions in North Africa and Spain have impacted imports and the high cost of energy saw many British farmers delay planting some crops.

“Half of our growers didn’t grow last year, and half of our growers are not growing this year, and that’s because they couldn’t secure an increased price from the supermarkets to cover the increased cost of energy and fertiliser, and inputs that they needed in order to make a profit and make a living on the produce grown,” the secretary of the LVGA Lee Stiles said.

“It’s too late for UK growers to step in and try and make up some of the shortfall,” he added. “If we planted tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in December, we would be picking now. And if we planted cucumbers in the first week of January like we normally do, we’d be picking on Valentine’s Day as usual.”

“The majority of tomatoes, peppers and aubergines are not going to be around in big volumes until May, so it’s going to be longer than a few weeks,” Stiles said, contradicting Environment Secretary Therese Coffey, who predicted that the shortages would only last another month.

While some have attempted to blame Brexit for the produce shortages, Reform UK (formerly the Brexit Party) leader Richard Tice said that in reality the current shortages are much more likely a result of the government’s green “net zero” agenda, noting that the high cost of energy has made it prohibitively expensive for many farmers to heat their greenhouses during the winter.

“Apparently now Brexit is responsible for the weather,” Tice quipped.

“The good news is that the Remoaners are looking ever more ridiculous when they look for any excuse possible, anything that goes wrong in the UK, it’s Brexit’s fault.”

The populist party’s leader went on to note that such problems don’t occur as often in the United States “because they use their own energy treasure under their feet, they’ve got much cheaper energy” as a result of fracking for shale gas.

Despite the ongoing energy crisis, one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s first acts, after he was installed by party elites in October, was to reverse the short-lived lifting of the prohibition on fracking, meaning that the bountiful and reliable domestic resource of natural gas will remain underground.

Though Britain is less reliant on Russian energy than its European counterparts, because of a decade’s pursuit of allegedly clean energy sources such as wind and solar, both of which face reliability and intermittency issues during the winter months — precisely when energy is needed the most — the United Kingdom has become reliant on importing energy and therefore vulnerable to international price shocks.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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