EU vegetable shortage: Crisis or opportunity?

By Louis Gore-Langton

- Last updated on GMT

Continent wide shortage of fresh winter vegetables means more business for frozen and processed suppliers ©iStock
Continent wide shortage of fresh winter vegetables means more business for frozen and processed suppliers ©iStock

Related tags Fruit

Weather conditions continue to mar vegetable production in some of the EU’s foremost growing regions – but is this a blessing in disguise for the processed food sector?

Frost, flooding and snow have badly affected crops in southern France, Spain and Italy. Overall production in Europe is expected to have dropped by 60%.

With shortages affecting many winter vegetables such as cabbages and courgettes, prices are rising steeply throughout the EU.

The western Spanish regions of Valencia and Murcia, where the majority of Europe’s winter crops are grown, have seen some of the heaviest losses.

Spain’s federation for exporters of fruits, vegetables and flowers (FEPEX) said in a statement:  “All horticultural production, with notable differences by species, will be reduced by 30%.”

The statement added that production usually accounts for 50% of Europe’s vegetable supply at the least, producing an average of 100,000 tonnes per month.

According to statistics​ released by the Spanish ministry for Agriculture, prices for tomatoes were up 45% by 15 January, courgette prices up 60% and aubergines by a massive 132%.

Good news for the processed sector?

Whilst freezing conditions have caused such massive disruptions throughout the fresh food industry, others are hoping to profit.

John Hyman, chief executive of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) said in a statement: “Many shoppers are seeing empty shelves and ‘product unavailable’ warnings on fresh courgettes and spinach in particular with wholesalers seeing price per kilo rocketing amid what is being dubbed on social media as a #courgettecrisis. However, savvy shoppers will notice that the frozen stocks of both of these products remain plentiful and at a consistent price point.”

With a short term vacuum in the fresh fruit market, frozen and processed foods may have significant room to benefit from longer shelf lives and lower prices. 

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