UK spud shortage sees shop shelves stripped bare and strict veg rationing

The chips are down for Britain with the nation set to be gripped by a potato shortage.

Superstores are already introducing rationing to protect supplies of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, salad bags, broccoli, cauliflower and raspberries.

Potatoes look set to be next disappearing from the shelves with UK farmers unable to meet demand and supplies of crops from abroad dwindling.

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Last year’s drought, a labour shortage and soaring energy bills have combined to make growing spuds una-peel-ing.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Covid and climate change have added to potato production problems.

Dwindling supplies will push up prices in fish'n'chip shops, restaurants and supermarkets. Potatoes already cost 20% more than they did 12 months ago.

Liz Webster, chair of pressure group Save British Food, said Britain should brace itself for a sparsity of spuds.

She tweeted: "Things are about to get a lot worse for food supply in Britain. It’s tomatoes and cucumbers now. Potatoes likely will be next. Next few months are when our food stocks are empty and we rely on imports."

"And EU countries can’t be bothered to export to us bc of #Brexit red tape." Liz said leaving the EU had removed the UK’s food supply "safety net" in troubled times.

She said the Government was also offering environmental incentives ahead of cash to support food production – leaving the nation capable of growing less than half the grub it needs.

"Farming in the UK is a gamble at the best of times," she said.

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"It’s a risky business growing anything in Britain due to the difficult climate. But since Brexit the odds are stacked heavily against.

"Supplies from Europe were our safety net. Now we don’t have that. Potatoes are expensive to grow and last year's drought along with problems over labour have left us facing a crisis."

Retailers warned the current tomato shortage will soon widen to other fruit and veg – and could last. Bad weather and transport problems have left supermarket shelves bare of some fresh produce.

Asda has introduced a customer limit of three on tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, salad bags, broccoli, cauliflower and raspberries, with other supermarkets considering similar measures.

An Asda spokesman said: "Like other supermarkets we are experiencing sourcing challenges on some products that are grown in southern Spain and north Africa.

"We have introduced a temporary limit of three of each product on a very small number of fruit and vegetable lines so customers can pick up the products they are looking for."

Growers and suppliers in Morocco have had to contend with cold temperatures, heavy rain, flooding and cancelled ferries over the past four weeks – all of which have affected the volume of products reaching Britain.

National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters said: "Everybody wants to avoid rationing", but added: "I think there are going to be challenges on availability of some food items."

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