Is ‘perfectly shaped’ veg to blame for food shortages?

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Could wonky veg be the solution to current shortages in the UK?
Could wonky veg be the solution to current shortages in the UK?

Related tags Fresh produce redistribution

An overreliance on ‘perfectly shaped’ fruits and vegetables and an unwillingness to sell wonky, less aesthetically pleasing alternatives could be causing shortages in UK supermarkets, suggested food redistribution service Earth & Wheat.

Bad weather in Spain and North Africa has been blamed for the current shortage of fruit and veg, made worse by worse by many major UK growers delaying planting crops due to high energy costs for greenhouses and low prices being offered by supermarkets.

While the Government expected the shortages to last for one month, many UK growers have said they could last until May.

However, Earth & Wheat have said that the supply of items it ‘rescues’ from UK farms have remained largely consistent.

Wonky veg

Earth & Wheat founder James Eid said there was clearly a shortage of normal ‘perfectly shaped’ vegetables in supermarkets due to a number of factors, but noted that similar issues had not affected his wonky veg.

“It’s a difficult situation as extreme weather in Spain and North Africa has caused stunted growth in vegetables and that is the main reason for the shortage in supermarkets,” he explained.

“Maybe this is the perfect time for many of us to ween ourselves of the idea of perfect produce. Wonky vegetables and wonky bread are still just as tasty – these items are just typically too big or small or an odd or unusual shape.

“These can also still be good value depending on how many vegetables you eat and by consumers switching to wonky produce, it reduces food waste and helps the planet which has been Earth & Wheat mission since it started.”

Weather and climate risk

Meanwhile, there has been a ten-fold increase in the number of food and drink firms that have cited weather and climate as a risk to their ability to operate since 2018, according to tech start-up Ideagen.

Christina Jackson, head of quality software at Ideagen, said: “Compared with pre-pandemic and pre-Brexit data from 2018, 2022 analysis shows a ten-fold increase in organisations citing weather and climate as a risk to their ability to operate. What’s more, nearly a third of organisations also cited supply chain issues as a major concern.

“Whilst retailers are reassuring consumers that this is a temporary problem, it’s pushed the fragility of food security in the UK and across Europe front and centre.

“We urge those making decisions to listen to the growers and food producers who understand their end-to-end supply chains and are adding these environmental factors into their risk registers. While weather may be seasonal, it’s also annual. The solution will require intergovernmental collaboration.”

Related topics Supply Chain Fresh produce Operations

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