First salad, now leeks: growers warn of a British shortage

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) - British households, already reeling from a shortage of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, were warned on Thursday to brace for a lack of home grown leeks.

Growers warned that UK production had been dented by record high temperatures earlier in the year, followed by a lack of rainfall and more recently a period of extreme cold weather.

"Leek farmers are facing their most difficult season ever, due to the challenging weather conditions. Our members are seeing yields down by between 15% and 30%," Tim Casey, chairman of the Leek Growers Association, said.

He predicted the supply of home grown leeks would be exhausted by April, with no British leeks available in the shops during May and June.

That means consumers will have to rely on imported continental crops.

British consumers have been grappling with a shortage of key salad staples for about a week, prompting many to post photos on social media of empty shelves in supermarkets.

The government has warned that that shortage could last for up to another month, after supplies were hit by disrupted harvests in southern Europe and north Africa due to unseasonal weather.

As a result, most of the country's biggest supermarkets including Tesco, Asda and Morrisons have imposed limits on how many salad items shoppers can buy at one time.

The salad shortage has been exacerbated in Britain by the fact that farmers in Britain and the Netherlands have planted fewer crops in greenhouses due to high energy costs.

Therese Coffey, minister for the environment, food and rural affairs, told lawmakers Britons might want to consider eating home grown turnips instead.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Kate Holton)