Consumers on social media sites Twitter and Facebook posted pictures of empty shelves in the big four supermarkets, with some stores displaying signs limiting the number of vegetables that could be bought.
Signs on shelves in Tesco advised consumers that they could only buy up to three lettuces at a time, to preserve availability.
A Tesco spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “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.”
Two iceberg lettuces per customer
Morrisons has also limited the number of fruit and vegetables that consumers could buy in its stores, with three broccoli and two iceberg lettuces per customer.
A Morrisons spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Our availability of broccoli and iceberg lettuce is good. However, other businesses 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. As you can imagine, most customers don’t buy more than three broccoli at a time.”
British Leafy Salads Association spokesman Dieter Lloyd said the bad weather had also affected the rest of the EU, not just the UK, on the BBC’s Radio 5Live.
‘We are not the only people buying it’
“There are still stocks coming in, albeit at a reduced rate – I have seen it is as low as 30–50% of what we normally have – but the challenge is we are not the only people buying it,” he said.
“With Germany, France and the rest of the EU too, the people who are prepared to pay are going to get it.”
Lloyd said there was not a clear end in sight to the shortage.
National Farmer’s Union horticulture and potatoes board chair Ali Capper advised consumers to eat more British grown fruit and vegetables.
“British fruit and veg is produced to some of the highest standards in the world and I encourage the public to take advantage of our great British produce,” said Capper.
“There are more than 25 varieties of fruit and veg in season that shoppers can enjoy and while it is frustrating that there are shortages of produce from continental Europe, there are definitely no shortages of supply in Britain.”
“For a reasonable price, there is plenty of home-grown fruit and veg for everyone.”
This fresh spate of shortages came less than a month after a courgette “famine” in the UK, after poor weather conditions in southern Europe destroyed crops.
Twitter exploded with users responding with disbelief that stocks of courgettes had run low.