Lettuce and spinach shortage prompts supermarket rationing

Tesco in the UK is limiting purchases to three lettuces per customer

Ireland's salad days could be limited as chronic lettuce and spinach shortages across Europe have seen the healthy greens disappear from supermarket shelves in recent weeks.

While the situation in the Republic is not as grave as the UK, where some supermarkets have begun lettuce rationing, poor growing conditions in Spain has definitely been having an impact.

Spain produces almost half of Europe’s vegetables in the winter months but due to a combination of unseasonably cold weather in key growing areas, as well as floods which badly damaged crops, supplies are low.

Poor conditions have also hit farmers in Italy, Greece and Turkey and retail experts have warned that if the weather does not improve across southern Europe in the coming weeks shortages may last until April and customers will be hit by likely price rises.


Irish retailers have said they are struggling to maintain supplies but have not yet been forced to limit the amount of the vegetables they will sell to consumers.

It is a different story in the UK where Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury's have all imposed restrictions on how much lettuce one person can buy.

“Due to bad weather conditions in Spain, we are experiencing some availability issues but are working with our suppliers to resolve them as quickly as possible,” a spokesman for Tesco’s UK arm said.

“To make sure customers don’t miss out, we are asking them to limit the number of iceberg lettuces they buy to three.”

The reasoning behind the rationing is not because the retailers believe individual consumers are likely to stock pile leafy greens - as their shelf life is notoriously short - but to stop restaurants and sandwich bars which have been struggling to source what are key components of many sandwiches hoovering up supplies.

It is not only lettuce and spinach which have been hit hard. Courgettes, broccoli and aubergines have also suffered.

A spokeswoman for Tesco Ireland confirmed that it was "currently experiencing supply issues with some fresh produce including spinach, lettuce, broccoli and courgette".

She added that it would “continue to work with our suppliers and our supply chain teams to ensure that customers have the best possible access to the products they know and love, or alternatives where possible”.

An Aldi spokesman, meanwhile, said that while it was not rationing its greens, it was “experiencing some short-term availability issues on a very small number of lines. We are working with our suppliers to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast