UK supermarkets ration iceberg lettuce on supply crunch

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 03, 2017 5:01 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - British supermarkets are rationing shoppers to three iceberg lettuces per visit, blaming poor growing conditions in Spain for a shortage in supply.

Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury's have all imposed restrictions on bulk purchases after production in Spain was hit by crop damage from flooding late last year and compounded by cold weather last month.

The limited supply of iceberg lettuces follows an ongoing shortage of courgettes in Britain. Broccoli and aubergines have also suffered from limited availability.

Analysts noted that as the vegetables tend to be farmed in southern Europe on a quarterly cycle it is likely to remain a problem until the end of March.

"Due to bad weather conditions in Spain, we are experiencing some availability issues but are working with our suppliers to resolve them as quickly as possible," said a spokesman for Tesco, Britain's biggest supermarket group.

"To make sure customers don’t miss out, we are asking them to limit the number of iceberg lettuces they buy to three."

Morrisons, Britain's fourth-biggest supermarket chain, has also limited customers to three heads of broccoli and three iceberg lettuces.

A spokesman for the grocer said that Morrisons' availability of broccoli and iceberg lettuce is good.

"However, other businesses (such as cafes and restaurants) are experiencing shortages and we have seen some bulk buying in our stores. We have therefore had a cap on sales of broccoli and iceberg lettuce to ensure we maintain good supplies for our regular customers," he said.

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury's, Britain's second-largest supermarket group, said it was working with suppliers to maintain supply but that customers would be prevented from making bulk purchases.

No. 3 player Asda, the British arm of Wal-Mart, said that it had availability issues on a small number of salad items and vegetables such as courgettes and aubergines.

"We’re doing everything we can to support our growers and get back up to full supply as quickly as possible," a spokesman said.

Discounters Aldi [ALDIEI.UL] and Lidl [LIDUK.UL] both said they were not experiencing significant availability issues and have no need to ration.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by David Goodman)