Why are supermarkets rationing fruit and veg? Food shortage rules explained

27 February 2023, 13:43 | Updated: 27 February 2023, 13:58

Supermarket shortages on tomatoesAlamy
Supermarket shortages are impacting thousands of customers across the UK. Picture: Alamy

By Zoe Adams

Why is there a tomato shortage? And why are supermarkets rationing fruit and veg? Here's everything you need to know about the empty shelves at Asda, Tesco and Aldi and who's to blame.

Morrisons, Asda, Tesco and Aldi have all introduced limits to how much fruit and veg you can buy after they struggled to keep their shelves stocked up on the everyday items.

Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are just some of the goods listed as produce that needs to be rationed to customers.

Shoppers have been very vocal about their struggles to buy certain items over the last few weeks, especially as they look towards Europe who don't seem to be having the same issues.

Liz Webster, from Save British Food, who has a farm in Wiltshire, called for an urgent return of free trade with Europe to keep British supermarket shelves stocked.

"We’re looking at a cascading collapse of British food because of Brexit decisions," she told Nick Ferrari on LBC this morning.

Read more: Eat turnips not tomatoes: Environment Secretary tells Brits facing veg shortage as she warns of month of bare shelves

Read more: Mum, 49, slams Lidl for 'barring' her from buying 100 cucumbers for juice business as supermarkets ration fruit and veg

“They are getting rid of our food security in Britain to rely on the world supposedly to feed us. At the same time they’ve cut off our trade with Europe, less is coming in and less is going out, and then we’re relying on people outside of Europe, which are a long way away from us to feed us."

Shopper buying tomatoes in supermarket
Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons have supply issues for most of their salad items. Picture: Alamy

Why are supermarkets rationing fruit and veg?

Experts have revealed a number of reasons behind the shortage of fruit and veg on our supermarket shelves.

Firstly, there has been issues with suppliers, particularly those in Morocco and Spain, who are responsible for 95% of some of our produce - tomatoes and lettuces especially - through the winter.

Both countries have had to battle with cold temperatures, heavy rain and even flooding in recent weeks which have all affected the supply chain.

Secondly, the cost of living and soaring energy prices are also having a huge impact on supplies as farmers and growers in the UK are struggling to power their green houses to grow certain crops.

"Tomato growers in glass houses in Britain have shut them down,” Liz Webster added as a result of energy costs that are higher than the rest of Europe.

“The only solution is to get back in the single market and the customs union as quickly as possible, because now we can’t feed you as much food, we need that quick supply to come in from Europe and that’s only going to happen if you free up our trade.”

Lastly, due to poor weather conditions, there has also been transport issues when it comes to getting the fresh produce to the UK.

Supermarket fruit and veg aisle
Supermarkets have predicted supply issues will only last a couple of weeks. Picture: Alamy

What foods are being rationed and what are the supermarket rules?

As it stands, five supermarkets have imposed buying limits when it comes to certain items:


The latest supermarket to announce restrictions is Lidl who have blamed shortages on a "increase in demand" rather than supply issues.

Lidl are also insisting the restrictions have been introduced to deter restaurant proprietors from using retail outlets as wholesalers as shortages hit.


Their most recent rules stated they will be limiting customers to a maximum of three items on produce such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, broccoli, salad bags, cauliflower and raspberries.

An Asda spokesperson said: “Like other supermarkets, we are experiencing sourcing challenges on some products that are grown in southern Spain and north Africa.

“We have introduced a temporary limit of three of each product on a very small number of fruit and vegetable lines, so customers can pick up the products they are looking for.”


The budget supermarket confirmed on Wednesday afternoon they too would be rationing certain fruit and veg items to their customers.

A supermarket spokesperson said: "We are limiting purchases of peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes to three units per person to ensure that as many customers as possible can buy what they need."


Morrisons have put a ban on customers buying more than two items of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers.

They too have blamed the weather in Spain and Morocco and said their availability has been "significantly impacted by adverse weather conditions across Spain and Morocco".


The latest supermarket to impose rationing rules is Tesco who have now put limits on salad vegetables.

Customers can buy three items each of groceries including tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.