Lidl has become the most recent supermarket to add purchase limits to certain fruit and vegetables, as the UK is hit by food shortages.
The discount grocer will be limiting the sales of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers to three per customer, the BBC reports.
A Lidl spokesperson told the BBC that “adverse weather conditions in Spain and Morocco” had impacted the availability of certain salad items.
“Whilst we still have good availability across the majority of our stores, due to a recent increase in demand we have taken the decision to temporarily limit the purchase of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers to three items per person.
“This will help to ensure that all of our customers have access to the products they need.”
Last week,Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons all announced restrictions on purchases of salad ingredients, prompting environment secretary Thérèse Coffey to call for people to “cherish” seasonal foods such as turnips.
Food and farming minister Mark Spencer is understood to be meeting the bosses of UK supermarkets on Monday, to discuss their plans to get shelves stocked again and to avoid a repeat of the current shortages.
Time to recap.
Lidl has become the latest major supermarket chain to ration sales of some fruit and vegetables after an increase in shoppers looking for them after rival retailers implemented their own restrictions.
The UK’s sixth-largest supermarket chain said it had introduced a buying limit of three items per customer on peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers after a “recent increase in demand”.
Lidl says it acted after an increase in demand, following restrictions at rival supermarkets.
A Lidl spokesperson says:
While we still have good availability across the majority of our stores, due to a recent increase in demand we have taken the decision to temporarily limit the purchase of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers to three items per person.
“This will help to ensure that all of our customers have access to the products they need.”
Here’s the full story:
Another supermarket chain, Morrisons, is in the spotlight today, as debts rise and profits fall under its private equity owners.
Pressure is mounting on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to rethink his plan to cut energy bill support in April.
Charities and opposition parties say it is a mistake to allow typical household energy bills to rise to £3,000 per year from April, up from £2,500 per year at present. That increase is due to planned changes to the government’s Energy Price Guarantee in April – when winter fuel bill support worth £400 per home will end.
This morning, energy regulator Ofgem announced that its energy price cap was being cut by £1,000 per year, meaning average bills would be around £3,280 per year from April, down from £4,279/year in January.
Ofgem CEO Jonathan Brearley said many households face a very tough time, adding that there is “a case for examining with urgency the feasibility of a social tariff for customers in the most vulnerable situations.”
The pound has rallied on reports that Rishi Sunak has sealed a deal with the EU to end the dispute over the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol. Sterling has gained a cent against the US dollar to $1.205 this afternoon.
A report has warned that Rishi Sunak’s government is hiding £28bn of “stealth cuts” to public services over the next five years, such as education, healthcare, childcare and transport.
In the City, Primark owner Associated British Foods has lifted its financial expectations for this year.
ABF now expects its adjusted operating profit and adjusted earnings per share will be “broadly in line with the previous financial year”.
ABF which also runs agriculture, ingredients, sugar and grocery businesses, says Britons started shopping early for the summer, and has also benefited from easing inflation.
Associated British Foods (ABF) said people were planning for their holidays despite the cost of living crisis, with strong sales of luggage and beachwear such as sunglasses, swimwear, beach footwear and even shorts.
John Bason, ABF’s finance director, said the company had seen an increase in sales of luggage and “people buying for hot summer holidays – and they’re doing it in January”.
The total value of all homes across the UK has reached a record high of £8.7tn, estate agent Savills reported, but rising mortgage costs are likely to lead to a dip in 2023.
And Elon Musk has fired another 200 staff at Twitter including the executive behind the revamp of its paid-for premium service, according to a report.
Over in Washington, the World Bank has estimated that the two major earthquakes that hit Turkey on 6 February caused about $34.2bn in direct physical damage.
However, total reconstruction and recovery costs facing the country could be twice as high, the World Bank said today, adding that Turkish economic growth will be lower than forecast too.
Reuters has more details:
The bank estimates that the earthquakes would also shave at least half a percentage point off Turkey’s forecast gross domestic product growth of 3.5% to 4% in 2023, Humberto Lopez, World Bank country director for Turkey, told reporters.
The situation in Syria, which was also affected by the quakes, was “really catastrophic”, said Anna Bjerde, World Bank Group vice president for Europe and Central Asia. The bank will release a separate damage estimate for Syria on Tuesday.
Bjerde said the initial rapid damage assessment for Turkey of $34.2 billion was equivalent to about 4% of its economic output in 2021, but that did not include indirect or secondary impacts on the growth of its economy, or the most recent earthquake a week ago.
“Our experience is that reconstruction needs can run as high as two to three times the estimated direct physical damage,” she said.
UPDATED: The pound has continued to climb against the US dollar, touching $1.205 after a government source said the the UK and the EU have agreed a deal on the Northern Ireland protocol.
That’s a gain of a cent, or 0.85%, today, and the highest since last Thursday.
Raffi Boyadjian, lead investment analyst at XM, says the pound was the strongest performer against the US dollar this morning, amid optimism of a Brexit breakthrough.
The much-hated protocol has been an ongoing source of dispute between London and Brussels since the divorce as well as between Republicans and Unionists in Northern Ireland.
A deal could remove barriers for the flow of goods between Britain and the province, paving the way for stronger post-Brexit relations between the UK and EU.
Sterling is still sharply lower compared to its pre-EU referendum levels (it was worth almost $1.50 on the day of the Brexit vote, before plunging as voting results came in).
Andrew Sparrow’s Politics Live blog has all the action:
Minister Graham Stuart has blamed Labour for high energy bills which are set to soar further from April, our environment reporter Helena Horton writes.
At the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) Net Zero Conference in Westminster this morning, Stuart refused to apologise to the British public for rising bills.
When asked by the Guardian if he would take responsibility on behalf of the government for sluggishness on insulation, heat pump insulation and renewables investment, he refused and instead blamed the previous Labour government.
“Well, I’m pleased to say that the government has taken unprecedented intervention this winter. Right now the government is paying more than half of families’ bills through this winter. That’s the current scale of intervention.
I’ve already given the numbers on energy efficiency, which has been transformational since the rather dire position we inherited both on renewables and efficiency from Labour.”
When it was pointed out that Conservative MPs have criticised the government’s lack of action he said: “but that’s exactly why it’s so good to have CEN members of parliament because they push the government to go further.”
[currently, typical household energy bills are limited to £2,100 per year, with homes receiving £400 of support this winter on top of the £2,500 energy price guarantee. Without that, average bills would have been capped at £4,279/year from January under the Ofgem cap].
Some chefs at Italian restaurants across the UK are rationing tomatoes, or even introducing tomato-free pizza due to shortages and soaring costs.
My colleague Miranda Bryant explains:
Italian restaurants across Britain are having to ration tomatoes, increase prices and in some cases remove the pomodoro from their menus entirely as costs soar.
The price of tomatoes has increased as much as fourfold in the past year, from £5 a case to £20 a case, according to the Federazione Italian Cuochi UK (FIC UK), a chefs’ association.
The price of canned tomatoes has doubled, it said, from £15 a case to £30. The cost of that insalata staple the iceberg lettuce has also soared, from around £7 a box to £22.
The UK government continues to be criticised for planning to reduce energy bill support in April, meaning average bills will rise from £2,500/year to £3,000 despite Ofgem cutting its price cap today.
UNISON national energy officer Matt Lay argues the government should think again about its changes to the Energy Price Guarantee, saying:
“Wholesale energy prices have fallen so it’s only right the cap should fall too.
“But while prices remain high, the government is wrong to reduce the level of support. This harsh move condemns millions of struggling families to bill and pre-paid meter hell. Ministers should use next month’s budget as an opportunity to think again.
“Better still it’s time the government upped its game, started insulating homes properly and boosted the energy efficiency of every household in the land.”
Back in the financial markets, the pound has risen a little today as traders anticipate a breakthrough deal on the Northern Ireland protocol.
Sterling has gained half a cent to hit $1.20, up from last Friday’s one-week low.
Against the euro, it’s up 0.25% at €1.1356.
Ursula von der Leyen and Rishi Sunak are meeting in Windsor this afternoon, after the EC president arrived in London to discuss a revised deal on the Northern Ireland protocol.
Our Politics Liveblog has all the latest details:
A breakthrough deal on NI could mark a line in the sand when six and a half years of damaging Brexit uncertainty finally comes to an end, says Kallum Pickering, senior economist at Berenberg bank.
Pickering predicts that the pound and the London stock market could both rally if a deal is announced, and crucially approved by MPs:
Lifting the threat of a tit-for-tat trade war with the UK’s biggest market, the EU, is exactly what its businesses and financial markets need. It would improve confidence and unlock business investment which has been badly held back by the risk of a UK-EU trade dispute.
While the UK will suffer a lasting impact on its growth potential following its decision to increase the barriers of trade with the EU, the major factor holding the UK economy back since the referendum has been uncertainty. If this comes to an end, we expect the UK’s healthy fundamentals – well capitalised banks, cash flush households and firms, and well-regulated markets – to re-assert themselves. A breakthrough deal would suit our above consensus real GDP calls for the UK over the next three years.
After a mild 0.8% (0.7%) contraction in 2023 we expect the UK to grow by 1.6% (0.9%) in 2024 and by 1.7% (1.5%) in 2025 (Bloomberg consensus in brackets).
On the announcement of a deal, and then again following any sign-off in UK parliament, we would expect to see modest positive moves for both sterling and UK equites.
Lidl has become the latest major supermarket chain to ration sales of some fruit and vegetables after a surge in shoppers looking for them after rival retailers implemented their own restrictions.
The UK’s sixth-largest supermarket chain said it had introduced buying limit of three items per customer on peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers after a “recent increase in demand”.
While Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons have already implemented rationing protocols, Lidl had held off, instead posting signs telling shoppers there may be delays in some of its produce being restocked.
A spokesperson said.
“As advised to our customers through signage in our stores last week, adverse weather conditions in Spain and Morocco have recently impacted the availability of certain salad items across the supermarket sector,”
Jay Rayner, the Observer’s restaurant critic, wrote about the causes of the UK’s food shortages last weekend.
He pointed out that the UK now has a dysfunctional food system, hit by the running down of British agriculture, as the large companies which control almost all the sector drove such tight deals that many producers had already collapsed.
Brexit then hit the sector, leading to a seasonal workers’ scheme that only granted six-month visas when they were needed for nine months.
And then, the energy crisis made it uneconomical to heat glasshouses.
Last week APS Group, one of the largest tomato growers in the country, admitted it had left some of its glasshouses unplanted for the first time in almost 75 years.
Some will argue that the supermarkets are refusing to pay more because they can’t pass on the costs to already hard-pressed consumers battling a cost of living crisis; that to suggest we should pay more for our food when so many are reduced to using food banks is a grossly insensitive argument made from a place of affluence. But if we structure our food system so that those in poverty can access it, we will only further damage our agricultural base. We need on the one hand to deal with the functioning of our food system and on the other with poverty, with a chronically unequal distribution of wealth.
We need to stop talking about food poverty and just call it poverty.
Here’s the full piece:
Food minister Mark Spencer has summoned supermarket chiefs to explain “what they are doing to get shelves stocked again” amid shortages of fresh fruit and vegetables, PA Media reports.
The meeting comes as consumers continue to face restrictions when buying certain fresh produce items at many supermarkets, now including discount chain Lidl, or bare shelves as retailers grapple with supply problems.
“The current situation – caused by recent poor weather in North Africa – shows how dependent we can be on certain trade routes for some types of food.
“I know families expect the fresh produce they need to be on the shelves when they go in for their weekly shop. That is why I am calling in supermarket chiefs to find out what they are doing to get shelves stocked again and to outline how we can avoid a repeat of this.
“As we do our shopping, we should all give our thanks to the UK’s tens of thousands of farmers and food producers for keeping us fed throughout the year and particularly showing their mettle keeping the nation going during the pandemic.”
Over the weekend, the National Farmers Union warned that shortages of some fresh fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers could be the “tip of the iceberg”.
Rising energy costs have deterred UK farmers from growing crops such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and aubergines in heated glasshouses, NFU’s deputy president Tom Bradshaw explained, while “shock weather events in Morocco and Spain” have hit imports.