UNITED KINGDOM: Following reports that British growers are only planting a third of the trees required to maintain orchards because they believe their profits from sales to supermarkets are not sustainable, apples and pears may become the next food crisis in the UK.
To maintain the Kingdom’s 5,500 hectares (13,590 acres) of output, according to Ali Capper, president of the British Apples & Pears Trade Group, which represents around 80% of the business in the UK, 1 million new trees must be planted each year.
The number of apple and pear trees that farmers had originally planned to acquire this year has been reduced from 480,000 to 330,000. Capper also said the key reason for the absence of investment was “supermarket returns that are unsustainable”.
She claimed that even though the cost of picking, energy, hauling, and packaging had increased by around 23%, returns had only increased by less than 1%. The vast majority of growers are in the red.
Some fresh foods, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, are already hard to find in Britain. This week, Tesco, Asda, Aldi, and Morrisons are limiting purchases of some lines, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.
The shortages were caused by both a drop in production by British and Dutch growers, who usually plant salads under glass at this time of year, and by cold weather in Spain and North Africa, which hurt the crops in those areas. According to the growers, supermarkets were unprepared to cover the increased cost of heating.
Some importers say that Brexit has also put the UK further behind the EU when it comes to bidding for scarce fresh food. This is because shipping over the English Channel costs more money and requires more paperwork.
It comes as food importers claim that Britain’s exit from the EU continues to mean higher costs and potential holdups because of the weight of bureaucracy. According to the Office for National Statistics, 13% of UK adults said they had run out of essential foods in the past two weeks. This is up from 17% a year ago.
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