Salad shortfall: Northern Ireland supermarkets to ration vegetables as adverse weather causes European shortage
Extreme weather in southern Europe could cost a Co Down food firm £1m amid vegetable shortages.
The salad shortfall caused by unusually bad weather in Spain began with aubergines and courgettes and has now spread to other vegetables and salads, and potentially citrus foods.
Many supermarkets have begun rationing how many lettuces customers can buy, and some varieties are out of stock online.
In Tesco's Belfast city centre store, customers are asked to buy no more than three iceberg lettuces at a time.
At this time of the year, around 80% of the salad eaten in northern Europe is grown in south east Spain - one of the areas worst affected.
Neal Kelly from Henderson Group said the company would direct customers towards locally produced alternatives in the event of shortages.
The problem began after an extreme mix of drought followed by flooding and freezing severely affected growers in southern Spain, while poor conditions have also hit farmers in Italy, Greece and Turkey.
Co Down pre-pack salad company Willowbrook Foods has said it could lose up to £1m worth of orders because of the shortage.
Managing director John McCann spent a week braving floodwaters in Murcia, Spain to inspect the damage and plans to return to the region in February. He said the shortages could continue for four to six weeks.
"Severe shortages continue to cause major problems. Supermarket shelves are almost devoid of fresh salads, however, this week we achieved almost 70% service due to support from our long term contracts with our Spanish growers," he added.
"The growth of salads has restarted, however even with better growing conditions, it will take considerable time for the crops to be back to normal."
Jilly Dougan, who curates edible gardens for some of the region's top hotels and restaurants said it was an opportunity to try growing at home.
She said: "Salad leaves are easy to grow and if you grow cut and come again varieties you could be picking salad leaves all year round. Generally, the darker the colour, the higher the levels of the good stuff, and tastier than boring Iceberg."
of salad eaten in northern Europe is grown in worst affected region