Lettuce shortage

British supermarkets have begun rationing vegetables, as adverse weather conditions in Europe have led to a shortage of products in UK stores.

On Friday (3 February), Tesco said customers will be limited to buying a maximum of three iceberg lettuces per visit, adding bad weather in Spain had triggered "availability issues", although it added suppliers were looking to resolve the issue.

"Due to continued weather problems in Spain there is a shortage of iceberg lettuce," a notice in a Tesco store read.

"To protect the availability to all our customers, we are limiting bulk purchases to three per person. We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

A spokesperson for the FTSE 100-listed supermarket said the decision of rationing vegetables had been taken to ensure stores do not run out of products.

Meanwhile, according to the Daily Mail, Morrisons has implemented a similar measure, limiting its customers to three iceberg lettuces and three heads of broccoli each.

"As a result of the fact that the Spanish harvest has been very difficult this year, we have just about enough coming in to supply our customers," a company spokesman was quoted as saying.

Last month, cold weather and snow devastated crops in southern Europe, leading to a shortage of courgettes on the shelves of British supermarkets. Across Europe, production was down by approximately 40% and the situation could remain difficult should climate in the southern part of the continent not turn warmer over the next two months.

The Spanish association of fruit and vegetable producers, forecast the shortage of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach will continue until early April.

The UK is particularly exposed to the impact of shortages, as it imports approximately 50% of its vegetables and 90% of its fruit.

In Spain, one of the main producers of vegetables on the continent, severe floods before Christmas left grounds too wet to grow a new batch of crops.

Spain's Murcia region, which supplies approximately 80% of Europe's fresh supplies during winter, suffered its heaviest rainfall in 30 years last month, which has left barely 30% of its fields in working conditions.

"Southern Spain provides around 80% of the fresh produce for the EU out of season, so it is not just the UK," Dieter Lloyd, from the British Leafy Salads Association, told BBC Radio 5Live.

"There are still stocks coming in, albeit at a reduced rate – I have seen it is as low as 30-50% of what we normally have – but the challenge is we are not the only people buying it.

"With Germany, France and the rest of the EU too, the people who are prepared to pay are going to get it."