It’s a question that isn’t really anything to do with insurance, although it does highlight supply chain issues. However your IE Editor does really, really like tomatoes, so after several fruitless visits to Aldi and Iceland recently, he looked into it.
Here are some answers on the shortage of tomatoes in UK supermarkets, plus some thoughts on when the shortage might end.
NO RAIN IN SPAIN
Last year was one of hot days and no rain for Spain which affected lots of crops, not just tomatoes. The way tomatoes are grown for supermarkets means that the crops are staggered, so that the ground is seeded, watered and crops lifted in rotation.
All this requires regular irrigation, lots of it in fact. The OECD estimates that in some regions of Spain some 80% of all water available goes towards growing crops.
In recent years there has been growing pressure from activists in Spain to preserve wetlands instead of intensive farming. Plus in some areas of Spain water has been consumed by hydro-electric power stations, to cope with peak demand, rather than being let out gradually for crop irrigation.
Yes, it’s another globalist `green’ policy benefit folks – you get nice wetlands to look at, but no food. Read more from this Spanish agriculture website here.
The good news is that March and the opening few days of April has seen some heavy rains in many parts of Spain, so the situation on water supply might ease.
OK, next part of this perfect tomato storm; the truckers strike.
Spanish lorry drivers are fed up with poor pay and conditions and began a strike about three weeks ago. Most crops are moved in refrigerated lorries to the UK of course, but this strike has also caused food shortages in Spain itself, where roads have been blocked completely.
That briefly spurred some panic buying and price hikes on everyday food essentials. More domestic demand means fewer exports.
After a week the government offered truckers a 20 cents reduction in fuel duty on diesel, but that offer was rejected.
After arrests and some confrontations, the strike action was halted on 2nd April. So maybe – just maybe – some long distance deliveries will start again to the UK this week.
The final part of the puzzle is the popular tomato soup prepped for Ramadam meals in Morocco, another key producer of tomatoes for the European food market.
This hearty soup is a traditional part of Ramadan culture in Morocco so as demand soared the government temporarily banned tomato exports, which lowered prices in Moroccan markets.
The dish is called harira and you can find out more about its ingredients here, so you can just drool a bit until tomatoes are back in stock at Aldi. Looks well tasty TBF.
Trade website Fruitnet reports how the Morocco dispute over tomato prices coincided with the Spanish truck drivers strike.
“Morocco slapped curbs on its round tomato exports this month after soaring prices led to domestic protests ahead of Ramadan.
The impact is being now felt across UK supermarkets, according to Alex Margerison-Smith, marketing & insights manager for Keelings International – a major tomato supplier to UK retailers.
“We are seeing gaps on the shelves in retailers,” he told FPJ. “Over recent years UK retailers have increased the amount imported from Morocco. What is also compounding the situation, is the haulage strike in Spain. Lorry drivers are striking and preventing lorries from leaving due to the cost of fuel.”
GOOD NEWS? WHEN WILL WE SEE PLENTY OF TOMATOES IN UK SHOPS?
Well the King of Morocco is meeting with the Spanish PM this week to settle differences over the long-running Western Sahara, Polisari situation, plus Ceuta, migration and more issues. It’s complicated stuff that goes back decades, but if some agreement can be reached then supply from Morocco via Spain can only be improved.
Obviously when Ramadam ends, the demand for harira will decline, thus freeing up Moroccan traders to export again.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands Future Crops, partly owned by Chinese giant Tencent, has started vertical crop growing, using hydroponics.
The results of this cutting edge food tech are more tomatoes, grown much quicker. This increased production in the Netherlands, or in the UK using similar methods, could save on 1000s of food miles and leave us less exposed to the dangers of long supply chains.
It isn’t just tomatoes, we could use vertical growing to boost local food supply across the UK.
Read more on that Netherlands food science here.