Retailers lost more than £2m in sales of courgettes alone last month, according to IRI Retail Advantage, as poor growing conditions in southern Europe led to widespread shortages.
The figures from IRI found that sales of courgettes were down 58% for the week ending January 28 2017 compared to the same week last year, marking the biggest drop to date and impacting UK retailers by £715,000 in one week alone.
During the week ending January 21, IRI saw a similar 51% fall in value sales, worth £655,000.
Martin Wood, head of retail strategic insight at IRI, said: “We know there have been production problems in southern Europe and it’s starting to impact sales quite dramatically at the leading grocery multiples. It remains to be seen if this downward trend continues. In the meantime, retailers are having to react quickly to the shortage and look to alternative suppliers to plug the gaps and keep customers happy.”
Independent retailers are beginning to feel the effects of the shortages that have extended to iceberg lettuce and broccoli.
Chris Shelley, owner of Shelley’s Budgens in Horsham, said: “We have had an email sent from Booker warning that the availability of lettuce and broccoli has been affected by the weather in Spain.
“Although we still have a few in stock now, once they run out we expect to have difficulty in getting more in. But our customers can trust that we won’t put the prices up as it wouldn’t be right to cash in on availability issues and we won’t be rationing them either. If we end up in a situation where we can’t get any more in then we will look at other produce we can get in to temporarily fill the gap and apologise to our customers.”
The likes of Tesco and Morrisons have rationed sales of iceberg lettuces or broccoli.
Manny Patel, owner of Manny’s in Long Ditton, Surrey, said: “We haven’t been able to get hold of courgettes for two weeks now from our suppliers, both Roberts and Londis, and we ran out of lettuce last week. We still have a limited stock of broccoli available though.
“The supermarkets are overreacting; we won’t be rationing or pushing up our prices, and we will unfortunately just have to apologise to our customers for the shortage and fill gaps with additional stock of cucumbers and tomatoes and mixed salad bags that we have seen a slight increase in sales of.”
Sukhjit Khera, joint founder and director of Simply Fresh, said: “We have unfortunately not been able to stock courgettes since the start of the new year. As for iceberg lettuce and broccoli, we have them in stock but have decided to keep the price unchanged and we have instead swallowed the short term price rise.”