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North-east greengrocers feeling the effect of nationwide lack of lettuce

Tip of the iceberg?
Tip of the iceberg?

Vegetable sellers across the north and north-east have said a nationwide lack of lettuce has left them feeling rotten.

Supermarkets have rationed the number of lettuces each customer can purchase in stores and iceberg, sweet gem and romaine varieties have been taken off sale completely by some online.

An extreme drought followed by flooding and freezing conditions has badly affected growers on the continent- and particularly Spain where many of the UK’s supply comes from.

Reports of a “black market” of the vegetables have since emerged due to the nation-wide shortage.

Along with lettuces, other green favourites like courgettes and broccoli are also being rationed in some shops.

The Murcia region of Spain supplies nearly 75% of Spain’s lettuce exports and represents 13% of all the lettuces grown in the EU.

Magnus Swanson, managing director of wholesaler Swanson Fruit Co Ltd, said the firm with bases in Moray and the Highlands was looking as far afield as the United States to tackle the shortage.

He said: “We have been having problems for weeks now but it only seems to have become big news when the supermarkets were affected.

“We are getting lettuce from America now because that’s all we can do.

“We’ll soon be back to normal but just now we’re buying them for about £1.50 a lettuce. That’s about four times the usual price.

“But I think the worst of it is over and things will be getting back to normal.”

John Sorry, owner of The Green Grocer in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, said that changing eating habits of British customers had meant more expectation of foreign and off season produce.

He said: “We are trying to focus on local produce, as we always are, but people now want things all year round.

“People eat strawberries all year now for example.

“The grow time for a lettuce in Spain is between 10 and 12 weeks so things should sort themselves out.

“We were informed by our suppliers that there would be problems and we let our customers know so they could plan ahead.”

But he added: “It’s the courgettes that are really hard to come by. They’re like gold dust.”

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