THE SPANISH rain induced ‘Vegetable Crisis’ is officially over for UK consumers, with the first English grown iceberg lettuce’s and other salad items appearing on the shelves of the nation’s supermarket shelves last week.
UK shoppers faced shortages of courgettes in January when a cold and very wet snap hit the Spanish growing regions, causing a severe dip in supplies at a time of peak demand from consumers keen to pursue their new year resolutions to eat more greens.
The supermarket shelves emptied and were not refilled and vegetable prices shot through the roof, making the news headlines and front pages of the British papers.
Other produce, including aubergines, celery, green beans, lettuces and tomatoes were also affected, and as prices rocketed some supermarkets were forced to impose rationing to even out supply.
“This winter, the rains in Spain were quite a pain, as they caused floods that destroyed many of the crops,” said Georgina Reid, Tesco’s buying manager for chilled salads. “Now that our British suppliers are ready to send us their lettuces we will be able to reduce the price for customers as we lessen our reliance on the Spanish supply.”
Spanish-grown courgettes are still on supermarket shelves but will gradually be replaced by British ones towards the end of the month, followed by homegrown celery.
The UK salad season usually kicks off in mid-May but, thanks to a mild winter and recent warm weather across the country, crops are being harvested earlier than usual.
Shoppers can look forward to an early bounty of UK-grown salad leaves and radishes in addition to English-grown asparagus and Jersey royal potatoes.
Early British tomatoes and cucumbers already in store are supplemented with varieties from the continent, particularly Spain and the Netherlands.
One supermarket giant has gone one step further to ensuring the situation will not occur in the future
Waitrose has committed itself to growing British salad leaves all year round as part of its support for UK farming and to reduce dependence upon imports.
Its new greenhouse growing system – which it says is a UK first and has been in development since 2014 – allowed it to start selling a UK-grown salad bag in February, three months earlier than the usual May-October season, meaning in future years a wet Spanish winter will not upset their salad deprived customers.