Tomato, lettuce and pepper supply challenges due to ‘perfect storm’ of issues

Rising fuel costs and torrential rains in Spain adding to shortages of food products

Ireland is experiencing a shortage of glasshouse crops such as tomatoes due to a "perfect storm" of issues, including rising fuel costs and torrential rains in Spain.

A number of supermarkets have erected signs in recent days warning of supply issues.

A sign in Lidl said it is "short stocked" on some tomato lines due to "unseasonably" wet weather in Spain, while a sign in Supervalu said most tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and broccoli are unavailable "due to reasons beyond our control".

Justin Leonard, managing director of Jackie Leonard and Sons, a wholesale fruit and vegetable supplier in Dublin, said there are a number of issues causing the recent shortage, which is Europe-wide.

It is affecting all glasshouse crops, including lettuce, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes, he added.

“There is shocking weather in Spain, including torrential rain. It just washed a lot of the plants away and damaged them. So a lot of the plants are just shutting down and dying off. Then you also have the Spanish truckers protesting because of the cost of fuel. It’s a double whammy,” he said.

“Then it’s coming to the end of the Spanish season but the Dutch and Irish summer season hasn’t started yet. We’re reliant on natural daylight, but we’re not getting enough of it to grow the plants quick enough.

He added: "Then because of the war in Ukraine, they're not able to afford to artificially heat the glasshouses because of the cost of gas and oil. It's just a perfect storm that's leading to a backlog."

Increased prices

As a result of reduced supply, and increased costs, growers are trying to sell the products at about 30 to 35 per cent higher than the normal market average.

A kilo of tomatoes is now coming in at between €3 and €3.50, compared to the usual price of around €1.50 per kilo, he said, adding that many supermarkets are opting not to buy the product in at this price.

McDonalds said its Irish restaurants are also affected by the reduction in availability of tomatoes. The company has reduced the number of slices of the fruit on two of its burgers.

Tesco Ireland also confirmed the "challenges in the international supply chain in Morocco and Spain" means the growing and harvesting of some produce has been affected.

“As a result, the market is currently experiencing some temporary availability issues of tomatoes and some lettuce products,” a spokeswoman said.

“The Irish grown tomato season harvest has commenced and we expect to see some improvement on availability in the coming weeks, with the full Irish harvest expected to begin later this month.”

A spokeswoman for Lidl said the situation is having a “temporary impact” on the supply of some tomato lines.

“We expect this will be resolved in the coming days,” she added. A spokesman for Aldi said the “slight shortages” it is experiencing in select tomato lines will cease next week when the company commences its seasonal Irish supply of tomatoes.