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Chief Growth Officer at CI&T believes technology is key to the fruit and vegetable shortages

Technology is the answer to the UK’s fruit and vegetable shortages says Rebecca Crook, Chief Growth Officer at CI&T.

The chief growth officer explained that supermarkets don’t want to raise prices and lose customers. She said, “technology has helped farmers already in terms of moisture sensors, aerial pictures and GPS. However, it would be good to see the farming industry really leveraging technology to enable detailed forecasting and data-driven decision-making in what they grow and when, and how this connects with the demand from consumers.”

The UK could have fruit and vegetable shortages up until May
Reuters/Nick Oxford

The fruit and vegetable shortages in the UK could last until May according to the Lea Valley Growers Association, which has 80 members across the UK and produce around three-quarters of the UK cucumber and pepper crops.

Crook also explained that the UK’s farming resilience needs to be improved and this will require changes to government policy. She suggested the topics that need to be discussed in Parliament are renewable generation on farms, sustainable farming practices, carbon sequestration and technology.

Crook suggested panic buying has also contributed to the shortages and questioned whether alternative products could be used as replacements for certain products.

“If they can’t get a cucumber, a replacement could be suggested to go in a salad. Or if they like the taste of something, why not combine specific ingredients to create a similar taste?

“This could work really well for online shops, where they could introduce some functionality to make recommendations if something is out of stock,” said the chief growth officer.

She also believes the weather, war and rising energy costs have an impact on the shortage, “however, a spotlight needs to be shone on British retailers who want to sell food at a very low price”.

A survey from the Office of National Statistics said that 25% of adults could not find a replacement when the food they needed was unavailable, between the 8th and 19th of February, this is up by 15% in a similar period last year.

Empty shelves at supermarket
Uk Farmers say policies need to be changed to make farming more sustainable.
Photo: AFP / Joseph Prezioso

Last week UK environment secretary, Therese Coffey, told the House of Commons “it’s important to make sure that we cherish the specialisms that we have in this country” and suggested people eat more turnips to combat the shortage of fruit and vegetables.

The Lee Valley Growers Association’s secretary, Lee Stiles, said “half of our growers didn’t grow last year, and half of our growers are not growing this year and that’s because they couldn’t secure an increased price from supermarkets to cover the increased cost of energy and fertiliser.”

A member of the LVGA told the BBC that he has had to decrease the amount he grows because of the rise in production costs.

He said, “I’ve had to remove the first crop and start with my second and third crop to try and save costs over the winter period.

“A cucumber is selling for around 75p on the shelves here in the UK. In Europe, you’re looking at £1.50. And it’s cheaper to grow there.”

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