NEWS · 22 February 2023

Our shelves are bare. Supermarkets in Britain have resorted to rationing tomatoes because of huge shortages.

Asda has set a limit of three per person on tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other salad veg, while Morrisons has a maximum of two per person. Other supermarkets are set to follow suit and they say the shortages will last “weeks”.

And the cause is… you guessed it, Brexit.

But as ever, this is disputed. The media have settled on “cold weather in Spain” as the reason for the problems. Oddly though there is no tomato shortage in… Spain.

They claim it is a Europe-wide shortage. But there is no tomato rationing in the EU.

We have issued an open challenge on social media for anyone to send us one single example of the rationing of fresh produce from anywhere in the EU, and no one has. Because it doesn’t exist.

In fact, Twitter is full of photos from Spain, France, Italy, Greece and beyond showing supermarkets positively heaving with tomatoes. Our own supporters living in the EU have told us there are no shortages. European media are reporting on a UK tomato shortage, not a European one.

There is only one country with a problem, and once again it is the one that has cut itself off from the rest of Europe.

Yes, we have no tomatoes

Now, there is some truth in the point about the weather. Spanish tomato production is down. Moroccan tomato yields – which the UK hoped to rely on instead of EU crops – are down further.

So how is Brexit the cause?

Britain has long relied on imported EU fruit and veg during the winter. But since Brexit produce has been having a hard time making it from the EU without long delays and queues at ports, as shown by the noticeably shorter shelf lives lately.

Now, imagine you are a tomato grower with a shortfall. There is enough demand to sell your whole crop inside the EU single market, where you face no barriers between countries. Why would you bother to incur the expense and inconvenience of shipping it across the Brexit border?

One further relevant piece of evidence: the tomato problem is not affecting Northern Ireland!

Brexit has also increased Britain’s reliance on non-EU imports, which in the case of tomatoes means Morocco. They have been worse hit than Spain, with floods and cancelled shipping.

Inside the EU, countries can rely on each other when problems like this hit, and rapidly shift around supply chains to keep the shelves well stocked. But outside the EU, we’re on our own.

Just remember this

If you only remember one thing from this message, make it this:

There is tomato rationing in Brexit Britain. There is no tomato rationing in the EU.