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Supermarkets ration lettuce after bad weather hits supplies

Supermarkets have been forced to ration lettuce to no more than three per person. Credit: PA

Supermarkets have rationed lettuce as it becomes the latest food staple to be hit by a supply shortage after bad weather in the Mediterranean led to a poor harvest.

Lettuce varieties such as iceberg, sweet gem and romaine have been limited to three per person and are no longer available to buy online.

The shortage has also led to a sharp price rise as experts warn if conditions in lettuce-growing countries do not improve, the crisis could continue until April.

Drought followed by flooding and freezing conditions has severely affected growers in southern Spain, while poor conditions have also hit farmers in Italy, Greece and Turkey.

The lettuce shortage follows similar restrictions on courgettes. Salad peppers, broccoli and cabbage supplies have also been affected.

Spain normally supplies half the vegetables on the European market during the winter months.

Consumers across the country have noticed the iceberg shortage and tweeted their concerns about #lettucegate.

Samantha Aston wrote: "I've been trying for three days!! #lettuce #shortage#theraininspain".

While Craig in Leeds tweeted a picture of empty supermarket salad containers and asked "how are we going to decorate our burger and chips"?

Coos Hessing, of Hessing Super Fresh, said the situation for lettuce was "particularly severe".

"There have simply been too many cold days, and what's most bizarre about this situation is that it has hit all of south-eastern Europe.

"We had seen this before, but you'd need to go back to 15 years ago," the buyer told industry site Fresh Plaza.

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Fepex, Spain's largest growers' association, said the extreme conditions amounted to a "force majeure" and the availability of outdoor-grown vegetables will depend on conditions improving in the coming weeks.

A Tesco spokesman said they were "experiencing some availability issues" due to the bad weather in Spain

"[We] are working with our suppliers to resolve them as quickly as possible," he said.