Tomato shortage Bristol: The independent greengrocer fully stocked and with ‘queues out of the door’

Supermarket shelves are empty - but one independent greengrocer is fully stocked with tomatoes and peppers

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A greengrocers in Bristol is fully stocked on vegetables because it is paying what supermarkets won’t - and shoppers are queuing out of the door. Thomas Hagon, from Reg The Veg green grocers in Clifton, claims “the produce is there for supermarkets to purchase but higher prices have turned the chains off”.

Despite the empty shelves at supermarkets across the city, he has fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers - because ‘customers are happy to pay extra for them’. And he expects supermarkets will be forced to increase the prices in the near future.

The shortage has partly been caused by bad weather in Morocco and Spain which has meant less is being shipped in from overseas.

Thomas the wholesale price has reportedly nearly doubled in price, and he says supermarkets ‘won’t pay it’, while greengrocers, like Reg The Veg, will. He said: “We had shortages due to availability and low numbers about three weeks ago and supermarkets were still pumping out vegetables at low prices.

“It’s got to the point where now supermarkets can’t buy it at the right price as it’s increased so much. It is available they just won’t pay the money for it. Whereas we can, and we can then supply our customers and pass on the slight increase in price.

“We’ve still had to increase our own prices in some areas - cherry vine tomatoes are now £9.99 a kilo which is around double the normal price. We do say to customers that these peppers or tomatoes for example can be quite expensive but they’re happy to pay that.

“Of course, nationally it’s very difficult because of the volumes that supermarkets get in, but if they’re quoted £25 or £30 pounds for a wholesale shipment, and they wont pay for it.”

One of his colleagues said there were queues stretching out the door on Sunday (19) after customers scrambled for tomatoes and peppers. She initially wasn’t sure why but then realised it may have been down to the supermarket shortage.

Chris Ennis, 28 at Reg the Veg grocers with tomatoes on saleChris Ennis, 28 at Reg the Veg grocers with tomatoes on sale
Chris Ennis, 28 at Reg the Veg grocers with tomatoes on sale

Ultimately, Thomas says he isn’t sure what the solution to the problem is at the moment, but it will probably result in supermarkets having to charge more. Conditions on the continent have left prices at an “exceptionally high” rate.

Other greengrocers have also found themselves with no choice but to double their prices.

Paul Semple, 43, of Lloyds Green Grocers in Bristol, said: “Tomatoes are hard to get, courgette, cucumbers all hard to get hold of. They’re twice the price, that’s how scarce they are. It’s always hard to get produce this time a year but this year we’re nearly at £10 a kilo for tomatoes when we rarely go above £5.

“We’re still getting the gear, just prices are up and very expensive.”