How far is Brexit to blame?

How far is Brexit to blame?
How far is Brexit to blame?

Empty tomato crates at Tesco

Among the UK’s largest supermarkets are limiting gross sales of tomatoes and different salad objects.

The federal government says the shortages, that are anticipated to final for a number of weeks, have been “predominantly attributable to poor climate in Spain and North Africa the place they’re produced”.

Others spotlight the impact of high energy prices on UK growers, whether or not the federal government has finished sufficient to assist them and grocery store pricing.

Plenty of individuals on social media have additionally been posting photos of empty cabinets within the UK and contrasting them with loads of recent produce in supermarkets in Europe, claiming Brexit is an element.

So, what is the proof for this?

What are provides like in Europe?

The European Fee (EC) instructed us that “there is no specific scenario of meals scarcity in EU agricultural markets”.

The Spanish authorities did verify that “provides in Spain are presently decrease”.

It stated this was largely due to the climate: “unusually excessive temperatures from the tip of the summer season interval till December”… adopted by a “sudden arrival of low temperatures in January… resulted in a drop in provide”.

There have been some shortages within the Republic of Eire, one other European Union (EU) member, and Irish retailers have blamed freezing climate in Southern Europe and North Africa. However none are rationing fruit and greens.

How is Brexit affecting tomato imports from the EU?

EU nations are within the single market – an enormous, free-trade zone the place nations share the identical guidelines and laws.

The UK is now not within the single market and now has a rule that each consignment of “plant merchandise” – corresponding to tomatoes – despatched from the EU to the UK, requires customs declarations and pre-notification on the federal government’s IT system.

It produced a video on how to do that, utilizing an instance of somebody making an attempt to import tomatoes.

The federal government says the paperwork is not routinely checked however, from 2024, there can be additional paperwork and checks.

A screenshot of a frame from the government's animated video showing a character called Ali who imports tomatoes from Spain

A authorities video exhibits the steps the character known as Ali has to take to import tomatoes from Spain.

We spoke to MCE Logistics, an organization which processes these varieties for dozens of importers of Spanish tomatoes for British supermarkets.

It instructed us it takes round 10-20 minutes to do that per lorry – longer if they’re transporting blended a great deal of greens – and so they use specialised software program.

Man Singh-Watson who runs the Riverford veg field firm, and has farms in England and France, blames “Brexit paperwork” for the shortages.

Brexit represents “a problem for the whole Spanish fruit and vegetable sector”, in accordance to the Spanish authorities.

However it stated the present tomato shortages within the UK had been “due to the climate causes talked about, and never to Brexit”.

We requested the European Fee whether or not Brexit was an element. It didn’t touch upon this, however stated “meals costs and commerce flows are pushed by market forces”.

One individual on social media highlighted the situation in the Netherlands, one other supply of tomatoes for the UK.

They quoted ‘Daniel’ saying: “I dwell within the Netherlands. Now we have too many tomatoes! We used to export them to the UK however it now takes a truck driver 77 hours of queueing to take tomatoes to the UK and all truck drivers merely refuse.”

We contacted the business associations within the Netherlands in addition to the haulage firm pictured within the tweet.

The corporate has not obtained again to us and the business affiliation stated they had been “not conscious of queuing on the ports within the Netherlands for items leaving to or getting into from the UK”.

Ksenija Simovic, a senior coverage adviser at Copa-Cogeca, a bunch which represents farmers and farming co-operatives within the EU, stated when there is a scarcity of provide “it does not assist that the UK is out of the EU and single market”.

“However I do not assume this is the first purpose the UK is having shortages,” Ms Simovic added.

We requested the UK authorities if Brexit was an element however it didn’t tackle this level.

It stated farming minister Mark Spencer had spoken to UK retailers and “…requested them to look once more at how they work with our farmers and the way they purchase fruit and greens”.

What concerning the UK’s tomato producers?

Of all of the tomatoes eaten within the UK – about 500,000 tonnes a yr – UK growers produce a fifth or 100,000 tonnes.

Throughout the summer season, this goes up to round half of all tomatoes purchased.

Picture of tomatoes in a box with a Union Jack

Image of tomatoes in a field with a Union Jack

There have been shortages of seasonal farm workers, together with within the glasshouses the place tomatoes are grown, which have been blamed on Brexit and the pandemic.

The government’s Seasonal Workers visa scheme permits employees to keep for six months at a time. Earlier than Brexit, they may come and go – from different EU nations – as a part of freedom of motion guidelines. Now they arrive from nations as far away as Nepal.

Bal Kumar Khatri (r) and brother Buddi Bahadur Khatri (l) from Nepal

Seasonal employees Buddi Bahadur Khatri (l) and Bal Kumar Khatri (r) got here from Nepal to work in glasshouses final yr.

Dr Sarah Schiffling, a provide chain knowledgeable from the Hanken College in Helsinki, instructed us the season for rising tomatoes in UK glasshouses is about 9 months a yr. A six-month visa means recruiting and coaching two units of employees, including to the paperwork and price.

As well as, visas are granted provided that employees earn at least £10.10 for each hour worked – 60p greater than the present National Minimum Wage.

Dr Schiffling highlighted variations in pricing methods between UK and EU supermarkets which, she argued, has been an element within the present tomato shortages.

“The pricing methods of some supermarkets within the UK tie producers into longer-term contracts whereas the EU supermarkets use spot charges – when there are fewer tomatoes the worth goes up”, she instructed BBC 5 Dwell.

What about tomatoes from Morocco?

Greater than a 3rd of tomatoes eaten within the UK presently come from Morocco.

UK tomato imports in 2022: 35% Morocco, 34% Netherlands, 16% Spain and 15% other EU countries

UK tomato imports in 2022: 35% Morocco, 34% Netherlands, 16% Spain and 15% different EU nations

Growers there have been affected by unusually chilly night-time temperatures that affected tomato ripening.

Dangerous climate additionally led to the cancellations of ferries bringing provides to the European mainland over the previous three to 4 weeks.

After Brexit, the UK signed a trade continuity agreement with Morocco (replicating the commerce deal the UK had with the nation as an EU member).

In March 2022, Poole Harbour introduced a new direct service connecting the UK and Morocco can be launched “shortly”.

It stated it could present “another route for exporters from Morocco and Africa presently utilizing highway networks to the UK through Europe”. However the route has not been launched.

We contacted officers at Poole however haven’t had a reply.

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