Here’s Why Everyone Is Freaking Out About Cabbage in the U.K.

published Feb 9, 2017
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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

There’s a vegetable shortage in the U.K. that has Brits freaking out and buying a whole lot of seeds. After floods and storms in southern Europe destroyed crops, there’s a deficit for iceberg lettuce, broccoli, courgettes, eggplants, and vegetable of the moment, cabbage. The deficit has U.K. retailers rationing supplies across the country.

Experts anticipate the shortage to last until April or May.

(Image credit: Anton Khodakovskiy)

Lettuce is especially vulnerable since it is sensitive to temperature. More than 90 percent of the iceberg lettuce sold in the U.K. during the winter is grown in Spain’s southeastern Murcia region, the largest vegetable producer for Europe at this time of the year. When the region saw heavy rains and flooding in December, farmers warned of shortage. This was amplified by heavy snowfall — the heaviest the region has seen in three decades.

“We get snow like this maybe every 15 years,” farmer Manuel Martínez tells the Guardian. “But if there’d been frost that would have been it. No one in Europe would have anything green to put in their mouths.”

Poor weather in southern France, Italy, and Greece also contributed to the current shortage.

As prices increase and inventory remains low, retailers have resorted to rationing the vegetables while consumers are turning to a more DIY solution: buying seeds to grow their own produce. According to some estimates, sales of seeds and bulbs spiked by 272 percent last week compared to the same time last year.

(Image credit: Kridsada Tipchot)

Aside from vegetables, herbs have also been impacted. The Guardian reports that importers have had to get fresh herbs — like coriander, parsley, mint, and thyme — flown in due to insufficient quantities coming in from Spain. The deficit has caused the cost of herbs to go up by roughly 70 percent.

Fortunately for Americans, who love consuming iceberg lettuce, their inventory remains stable. Iceberg lettuce in America is largely produced in Arizona.