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Europe hit with epic vegetable shortage

Consumers in northern Europe are seeing extremely limited availability of a number of vegetables, according to a Feb. 8 story in The Wall Street Journal.

The shortages started in December, when severe flooding and snow hit Spain’s Murcia region along the Mediterranean Sea, damaging crops and preventing farmers from planting. Spain is the primary source of vegetables for the continent during the winter months.

Compounding the problem is press coverage and public debate about the shortages, which have caused consumers to stockpile what is available.

“A disaster is unfolding,” John McCann, managing director of Willowbrook Foods, Ireland’s largest bagged salad processor, was quoted as saying in the WSJ story. He said unseasonably cold weather could mean the shortages continue for weeks.

Among the items hit hardest are lettuces and zucchini. J. Sainsbury PLC, a leading grocery chain, is charging around $1.75 for a head of lettuce – three times the cost prior to the shortages – due to the need to fly product in from the United States. The retailer said it is too expensive to carry out that plan on a large scale.

Since December, produce prices have spiked in several European countries, including Germany (up 18.1 percent), Sweden (15.5 percent), France (11.7 percent) and the Netherlands (10.2 percent).