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When tomatoes disappeared from Britain’s supermarket shelves

tomato shortage
When tomatoes disappeared from Britain’s supermarket shelves, the usual suspects were quick to blame Brexit. Credit: Matthew Horwood/Getty

What exactly has happened to all our tomatoes?

By James Crisp and Ben Butcher
What’s next to disappear from Brexit Britain’s shelves after the great tomato shortage? I’d stick a tenner on it being strawberries or lemons.

To explain why, we need to understand why tomatoes went missing from the UK.

The usual suspects were quick to pin the blame on Brexit.

Leaving the EU does have a role in the shortfall, although it is not the only or main factor.

There are more barriers to trade with the EU after Brexit, notwithstanding the trade deal agreed in 2021.

It is harder for EU businesses to export to the UK than it was, which has led to a shift in supply chains for some goods, including tomatoes.

As the chart below shows, the UK got most of its fresh tomatoes from the Netherlands and Spain before Brexit took legal effect and began to slow EU imports.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet Credit: Add credit
Once the trade deal kicked in, imports from non-EU Morocco picked up pace from 22 per cent.

This year, they overtook the Dutch to become our number one supplier with 36 per cent.

So what happened to all our tomatoes?

Unusually cold weather hurt the Moroccan harvest this year. At the same time, European countries grew fewer tomatoes because of the impact of higher energy prices on production.

Tomato supplies were being squeezed but why are there tomatoes on European shelves?

Moroccans know the EU is a larger market and have prioritised it accordingly.

Meanwhile, EU producers will go to their fellow member states first because there are no additional post-Brexit costs.

Spain, the Netherlands and Germany were the main EU suppliers of lime and lemons to the UK before Brexit.

77 per cent of limes and lemons came from the EU but that has now dropped to just 50 per cent with South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Argentina taking up the slack.

As this chart demonstrates, other imports have shifted away from the EU to countries susceptible to weather issues, which are likely to be exacerbated by climate change.

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Strawberry imports from the EU are down from 60 per cent to 41 per cent, as the market turns to Turkey and Egypt. Other fresh berry imports have shifted to Egypt and Morocco.

The situation is similar to that before the imperfect storm of the tomato shortage triggered by the unusual temperatures.

Conditions have settled back to normal but it is a good thing we love talking about the weather in Britain.

We could be doing it much more often in the years to come.

Published by Guestspeaker

A joint effort of several authors who do find that nobody can keep standing at the side and that “Everyone" must care about what is going on in today’s world. We are a bunch of people who do not mind that somebody has a totally different idea but is willing to share the ideas with others and to be Active and willing to let others understand how "today’s decisions will influence the future”. Therefore we would love to see many others to "Act today".

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