Some British supermarkets are not even selling turnips after they fell out of favour with the public
Shoppers hoping to turn to turnips amid the national vegetable shortage could be frustrated – with many supermarkets not selling them.
Environment Secretary Therese Coffey has urged the public to ‘cherish’ British ‘specialisms’ such as the turnip after admitting the shortage of some fruit and vegetables could last for another month.
But it turns out that the turnip has fallen out of favour with the public, with some of the country’s biggest supermarkets revealing they no longer sell them, and encouraging shoppers to buy swedes instead.
Dr Coffey sparked controversy with her suggestion that shoppers could make the most of ‘British specialisms’ such as turnips while supermarkets place limits on imported fruit and vegetable sales after shortages.
As growers said salad vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce could still be in short supply until June – rather than two to four weeks as claimed by Dr Coffey – the Co-op and Tesco both said they no longer sold turnips.
It turns out that the turnip has fallen out of favour with the public, with some of the country’s biggest supermarkets revealing they no longer sell them
Environment Secretary Therese Coffey has urged the public to ‘cherish’ British ‘specialisms’ such as the turnip after admitting the shortage of some fruit and vegetables could last for another month
Tesco called it a ‘legacy vegetable’ and said it offered customers swedes instead.
Asda listed turnips as being unavailable on its website, but Waitrose and Sainsbury’s were both offering the vegetable online. Morrisons said it sold turnips loose in its bigger stores, and did not have any issues with supply.
Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers’ Association, said turnips were a ‘relatively minor crop’, with many going to processors and animal feed. Mr Ward disagreed with Dr Coffey’s prediction that the current shortages would last a maximum of two to four weeks, saying it was likely to be much longer for some produce.
The Government and industry have blamed cold and frosty weather in Spain and North Africa for the squeeze on imports, while UK growers said high energy prices meant they planted less in greenhouses over winter.
Mr Ward said: ‘I think we’ll see a shortage of vegetables across the board including carrots and leeks right through to the beginning of June.
‘With cucumbers, people have just not planted them because they are waiting for the weather to get better so they don’t incur massive energy costs.’
He added: ‘It’s relatively easy to explain. What we are seeing is the result of a very, very dry hot summer.
‘Certain crops like carrots would have been growing but because of the dry spell, we haven’t had the volumes we were expecting.
‘They would be in the ground now and that will affect the carrot supply through to June, so we’ll probably see carrots running thin, and there’s an issue with leeks for exactly the same reason.’
Asda listed turnips as being unavailable on its website, but Waitrose and Sainsbury’s were both offering the vegetable online
A sign limiting customers to three items each is seen next to empty boxes in the tomato and peppers section of a Tesco
One major group of vegetable producers, The Lea Valley Growers’ Association, said some of the UK’s major growers are delaying planting crops because of high energy costs.
The 80-strong group represents the UK’s salad powerhouse – an area covering Greater London, Hertfordshire and Essex producing around three-quarters of the UK’s cucumbers and peppers, as well as lots of aubergines and tomatoes.
Its secretary, Lee Stiles, said sky-high energy costs and supermarkets offering growers low prices meant growing the vegetables was increasingly uneconomic, and supplies would be short for several more months.
Turnips are not the only root vegetable being championed by senior Conservatives amid the shortages.
One Tory MP suggested the public eat British-grown parsnips and leeks – but leek growers have also warned they were short of supplies.
Sir Robert Goodwill, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, told BBC Radio 4: ‘We don’t have that seasonality that we used to have. And certainly if people are on a limited budget, you know homegrown produce in season is very cost effective.
‘Strawberries are not available grown in the UK at this time of year but they when they come in season, you know that they taste much better. There’s loads of good produce – there’s good UK-grown parsnips, there’s leeks.’
Nit Tim Casey, chairman of the Leek Growers Association, said: ‘Leek farmers are facing their most difficult season ever due to the challenging weather conditions.
‘Our members are seeing yields down by between 15 per cent and 30 per cent.
‘We are predicting that the supply of homegrown leeks will be exhausted by April, with no British leeks available in the shops during May and June, with consumers having to rely on imported crops.’