Food shortages have hit the UK recently but now they are getting worse.
A combination of factors including bad weather in producing countries, labour shortages due to Brexit and rising costs have seen some supermarkets introduce rationing on salad produce including tomatoes.
And now Italian restaurants across Britain are having to ration tomatoes, increase prices and in some cases remove them from their menus entirely, the Guardianreports.
According to the Federazione Italian Cuochi UK (FIC UK), a chefs’ association, the price of tomatoes has increased from £5 a case to £20 a case in the last year alone.
The price of canned tomatoes has doubled, it said, from £15 a case to £30. Meanwhile the price of an iceberg lettuce has also soared, from around £7 a box to £22.
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Enzo Oliveri, FIC UK’s president, told the publication that now was a “very difficult” time for Italian restaurants, and warned that some may go out of business. “I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
His members normally source their tomatoes from Italy, Spain or Morocco. “But because there’s everywhere a shortage, there’s no tomatoes coming from any place,” he said.
He said some restaurants are moving their menus away from the ingredient, and instead offering “white” tomato-less pizzas and pasta dishes.
Chefs are using cheeses such as ricotta, or vegetables including courgettes or aubergines as a base and to thicken sauces. “White pizza, white sauces for pasta or less tomato. We’re making it a trend because prices are going up and because of shortages.”
He called for the government to cap tomato prices, warning: “When the prices go up we’re in trouble. We cannot calculate the margins any more.”
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said last week that the UK had a “highly resilient food supply chain and is well equipped to deal with disruption”.
A spokesperson told the Guardian it was in “close contact with suppliers, who are clear that current issues relating to the availability of certain fruits and vegetables were predominantly caused by poor weather in Spain and North Africa, where they are produced.”
Ministers, they added, would soon be holding an industry roundtable discussion with supermarkets about how to help return supplies to normal.
Meanwhile, Defra minister Therese Coffey suggested people just eat turnips instead.
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