Fruit and vegetable shortages in supermarkets are “the tip of the iceberg”, the National Farmers’ Union has warned. Deputy president Tom Brad-shaw said reliance on imports has left the UK vulnerable to “shock weather events”.

Soaring energy bills exacerbated by the war in Ukraine have also put off some vegetable growers, he added.

He said the UK has now “hit a tipping point” and needs to “take command of the food we produce” amid “volatility around
the world” caused by the war in Europe and climate change.

It comes as the shortage of tomatoes in UK supermarkets has widened to other fruit and vegetables due to a combination of bad weather and transport problems in Africa and Europe.

Mr Bradshaw said: “We’ve been warning about this moment for the past year. The tragic events in Ukraine have driven inflation, particularly energy inflation, to levels that we haven’t seen before.

“There’s a lack of confidence from growers that they’re going to get the returns that justify planting their glasshouses.

“We’ve got a lot of glasshouses that would be growing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and aubergines, that are sitting there empty.

“We’ve been completely reliant on imports. And when there’s been some shock weather events in Morocco and Spain, it’s meant we’ve had these shortages.”

Major growers have warned the shortages of tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, peppers, broccoli, and raspberries could last until May, with leeks, carrots, cabbage, and cauliflower to have purchase limits within weeks.

It came after Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey suggested households should eat seasonal British vegetables like turnips instead last Thursday, prompting stores to sell out of turnip stocks within 24 hours.

And a consumer expert has revealed a list of readily-available substitutes for popular fruit and vegetables that will allow people to continue getting their five-a-day without breaking the bank.

Richard Price, director of online supermarket Britsuperstore, said substituting kale, cabbage or
spinach for lettuce would deliver similar nutritional benefits.

He said tinned tomatoes are easier to get hold of than fresh ones and root vegetables such as carrots have a similar texture when cooked. “Tomatoes are high in vitamin C and potas-sium.

If you’re looking for similar nutrition, try adding extra plums or peas to your diet. If you’re struggling to find raspberries, gently simmer thin slices of rhubarb in sugar-infused water.”

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