Shortage of vegetables on supermarket shelves “not a surprise”

Shortage of vegetables on supermarket shelves “not a surprise”

The current shortages of some vegetables and salad foods on supermarket shelves has “not come as a surprise” to one of Northern Ireland’s top plant producers.

Trevor Gabbie said he anticipates shortages of other vegetables given the pressures the industry is currently facing.

A number of the top supermarkets in Britain, including Tesco, Aldi and Asda, have limited purchases of some fruit and vegetables, with the restrictions expected to last a number of weeks.

“The British retailers have said ‘we are not going to pay the extra money to get it grown in glass houses in Holland or the UK, we can get it done cheaper in Spain’ and now they have got their fingers burnt,” said Trevor.

“The greengrocer might still have stuff on their shelves, but that is because they are paying more than the retailers are willing to pay. Suppliers are saying that they are not getting enough money, so they are not going to do it.”


Trevor Gabbie, chair of the UFU veg committee

Trevor, from John Gabbie and Sons in Comber, producing over 50 million plants, is the chair of the Ulster Farmers’ Union vegetable committee. He told Neighbourhood Retailer the present situation is a result of poor weather and pricing pressures.

“The supermarkets here are not willing to give enough money to the farmers for growing and that goes across all fruit and veg,” he said.

“Everything is to the minimum, they are not over-producing, to the extent there will be a shortage of carrots. What has happened is that with the extreme weather in the summer, that has taken out a percentage and then the cold weather has hit a percentage.

“They are working on very tight margins, which is driven by the supermarkets.”

He acknowledged that while there are supermarkets who are working with vegetable growers in Northern Ireland, it’s a far from ideal situation.

“If one supermarket does something cheaper, they have to follow it, so it’s a race to the bottom and it’s the farmer that gets affected. They are biting the hand that feeds them. They are going to wake up one morning and say that they have no broccoli or cauliflower.

“Most of the cauliflower on the supermarket shelves here does not originate from Northern Ireland,” he added.

“Veg is not a global product, ours is a perishable product, so it’s not a global commodity. Prices have been so low for so long that to ask for a price increase is like you are going to insult the supermarkets.”


Trevor said it isn’t a surprise that we are now seeing empty shelves and consumers limited to the amount of certain vegetables they can buy, and warned that it will “keep on going”.

“In terms of changes, people’s eating habits have changed – we never used to eat salads in the winter, and so there is an increase in that and people eating more peppers, for example.

“What has happened in Spain and Morocco, their production is down 20-30%, because of the cold weather. You take that percentage out and someone is going to come up short.

“The current situation is very few farmers’ families will go into the business because it’s highly stressful. Why would they go into it when they know they can get a steady wage in a secure job. Farmers are at the weather’s mercy here and then you have got the supermarkets on top of that. You are not making much money.

“In my opinion, the government is not doing anything because they want to see cheap food on people’s tables. They are not wanting to put the price of food up because that will rise inflation. Farmers have had all those increases in inflation and labour costs to deal with.

“The veg industry in the UK and Ireland needs to make good money to make it worthwhile and to incentify someone coming into the business,” he added.