The reliance on Spanish salad crops is easing as Britain’s lettuce season kicks off with Tesco launching cut-price Iceberg.
Unprecedented weather in major growing regions in Murcia and Valencia initially hit over the Christmas period followed by sub zero temperatures and snow. The cold spell severely damaged the region’s overall salad output as crops in many areas were annihilated.
There were further complications as flooding made harvesting impossible in some places and crops were left to rot.
This led to lettuce and broccoli rationing in some UK supermarkets as supply remained short for much of the winter period and into spring. Prices over this prolonged period were also pushed up and other vegetables including courgettes and peppers were also affected.
However, as the UK lettuce season begins salad and vegetable grower G’s Fresh can supply the retailers with home-grown lettuce which is now on the shelves nationwide priced at 50 pence.
“We’re coming into British lettuce season which means we’re able to move away from selling the more expensive Spanish lettuce. The seasonality of lettuce means that to supply lettuce all year round we need to import from Spain during the British winter,” says Georgina Reid, Tesco buying manager, chilled salads.
“This winter, the rains in Spain were quite a pain, as they caused floods that destroyed many of the crops. It was the worst weather to hit production in over 30 years. This unprecedented weather led to price rises and shortages with some products such as courgettes, peppers and leafy salads. In some cases over 40% of the crop was lost.
“The price of lettuce also rose as supplies affected by the floods became short. Tesco managed to absorb the price increase in December while still supporting our suppliers. We were one of the last retailers to increase the price in mid-January and never sold an Iceberg for more than 79p. Despite the weather conditions impacting on our supply in December, we continued to be one of the cheapest in the market for lettuce.”
Reid adds that the reduction in transporting fewer lettuce from Spain means Tesco can cut its prices further.
“We always strive to provide customers with high quality products at affordable prices. Our goal is also to support our suppliers in times of hardship which we were able to do through this weather affected harvest. We continue to work closely with our suppliers to ensure that we have consistently high quality produce and availability for our customers.
“We’re pleased to be first to offer the best British lettuce at the reduced price of 50p to customers.”