UK government seeks end of empty vegetable bins at nation’s groceries

LONDON, England: During the third week of shortages of food items, most notably tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, the government told major supermarkets to re-examine their relationships with farmers.

The availability of food items across the supermarket sector has been hit by disrupted harvests in southern Europe and North Africa caused by the weather.

The crisis has been exacerbated by high energy costs causing a drop in winter production in greenhouses in the UK and the Netherlands.

Photos of empty fruit and vegetable shelves in supermarkets have become viral on social media.

In a statement, Mark Spencer, UK food and farming minister, said he met with executives from major British grocers this week to discuss their plans to ease the supply issues.

"I have also asked them to look again at how they work with our farmers and how they buy fruit and vegetables, so they can further build our preparedness for these unexpected incidents," he said.

The British Retail Consortium, which represents supermarket groups, said the retail leaders told Spencer they were exerting significant efforts to address current challenges, and claimed that customers would begin to see an improvement in the coming weeks.

"Retailers also acknowledged the importance of food security, but noted that this requires a wider strategy involving government, farmers, food manufacturers, retailers and hospitality," it said.

Last week, Therese Coffey, minister for the environment, food and rural affairs, who was widely mocked for saying the UK people who cannot get hold of salad vegetables should consider turnips as an alternative, said shortages could last another month.