'The supermarkets don't want to pay, and local shops are loving it': The real story behind the tomato shortage
05.03.2023 - 23:07
At just before 8am on Thursday morning this week, Simon Conley, who runs Fountain Fresh at New Smithfield Market, the Manchester arm of a large Spanish import company, was packing up having started his day at midnight. He’d sold eight pallets of tomatoes that morning, with 50 boxes of tomatoes on each pallet, leaving a couple left for tomorrow and another delivery in transit.
I ask him how much that is in money. He stabs a few numbers into his iPhone and holds up the result. It’s about £18,000 sold that morning alone. Yes, there is a shortage of tomatoes, he says, so the prices have gone up. But are his shelves bare? Absolutely not.
New Smithfield is laden with tomatoes, thousands upon thousands of them, boxes piled high in every wholesaler you care to wander past. Poor harvests in Spain and Morocco are a very real issue, and that’s where the majority of the UK’s tomatoes come from.
Read more: We went to supermarkets across Greater Manchester in the hunt for tomatoes... and it felt like the Crystal Maze
But it’s not why the supermarkets don’t have any in stock. That’s a problem that’s been building and building for years.
As soon as a pinch point came in the form of a poor harvest, prices went up. But the major supermarkets, who have been hammering down prices paid to suppliers for decades, using the weight of their buying power to get the ‘best deals’ possible, baulked at the higher prices.
So they’ve blamed the poor harvests for the empty shelves, pictures of which have filled social media threads for weeks now. Actually, they can get tomatoes. How much they’re willing to pay for them - and in turn how much they think consumers will be willing to pay - is another matter.
So that’s why your local greengrocer is full