Vegetable shortage in Europe

Limited choice and high prices: weather anomalies cause a vegetable shortage

The extreme weather conditions which affected Europe last month have also had an impact on the harvest in Spain and Italy, two of the continent’s main exporters of vegetables. The crisis has especially hit the UK, which, according to the BBC, imports 50% of its vegetables and as much as 90% of its fruit. Supermarkets have been encountering difficulties in stocking several products coming from the two countries, such as courgettes, spinach, iceberg lettuces, broccoli and cabbages. Some British supermarkets such as Tesco and Morrisons have even limited bulk purchases by rationing the number of iceberg lettuces and broccoli heads one customer can buy per visit. As a result, Tesco clients are not allowed to buy more than three lettuces per person, while the customers of Morrisons can purchase a maximum of three broccoli heads.


Iceberg lettuce


©Harry Wallop

January saw unusually low temperatures across Europe, accompanied by floods in Spain and heavy snowfall in Italy. The severe weather had a particular impact on the Spanish south-eastern region of Murcia, which is known to “supply about 80% of Europe’s fresh produce during the winter months” and where the harvest dropped to one-third of its regular quantities. Similarly, the cold snap in Italy has caused the country to import vegetables, although it normally exports them at this time of year.

Consequently, given the shortage of fresh vegetables coming from countries affected by the damaging weather conditions, prices have significantly gone up. An extreme case reported by the BBC concerns courgettes at the New Covent Garden Market in London, where the price of a crate rose from £6-7 to £20-22. Moreover, supermarkets in the UK have resorted to importing fresh produce from the USA, an action which will also lead to higher prices, but which is hoped will prevent customers from finding empty shelves in vegetable aisles.

The shortage has also been visible in other European states such as Germany and Austria and is expected to continue to affect supermarkets until April.

English-German glossary

shortage = Mangel

harvest = Ernte

to encounter difficulties = auf Schwierigkeiten stoßen

to stock = am Lager führen

courgettes = Zucchini

iceberg lettuces =Eisbergsalate

cabbages = Kohlköpfe

to limit = einschränken

bulk purchases = Großeinkäufe

to ration = einteilen

floods = Überschwemmungen

heavy snowfall = heftiger Schneefall

severe weather = Unwetter

fresh produce = Frischwaren

to drop = (hier) sinken

cold snap = Kälteeinbruch

given = angesichts

crate = Kiste

to resort to sth = auf etw verfallen

shelves = Regale

aisles = (hier) Abteilungen

©Getty Images

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