- by Noor Nanji and Aslet Carr
- Business reporter, BBC News
A former environment secretary has said shortages of some fruit and vegetables will last three to four weeks.
George Eustice also insisted there was “not much” the government could do to prevent empty shelves in supermarkets.
The government and industry have blamed bad weather in Spain and North Africa for the pressure.
But chef and restaurateur Thomasina Mears warned that the food system is “completely broken”.
Major UK supermarkets are imposing limits on sales of fruit and vegetables after the shortage, and consumers faced empty shelves in some stores.
There is a shortage of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce bags, broccoli and cauliflower.
Producers have warned that shortages could last until May, with UK producers delaying planting due to high energy costs making the situation worse.
But speaking on the BBC’s Laura Kuensberg show on Sunday, Mr Eustice said he expected the problems to last for “three to four weeks”.
He blamed a “cocktail of weather events” for the problems, and said that food prices had always been closely linked to energy prices, which had risen because of the war in Ukraine.
He also said that “the government could not have done much differently in recent months” and that “there is nothing they can do immediately” to avoid problems affecting supply chains.
Mr Eustice said supermarkets were “working to fix it” in order to restore the disruption to the supply of some vegetables.
He acknowledged that the action was needed “long term”.
“We must commit to onshore production, so glasshouse production of cucumbers and tomatoes, we must try to make it here,” he said.
But Ms Mears, who runs the Wahaka chain of restaurants, called for a change in the government’s approach to food.
Describing the UK food system as “completely broken”, she said: “We are sitting on a time bomb”.
She warned: “If we think cucumbers and tomatoes are bad, we’re looking at even worse over the next decade.”
Ms Myers called for more investment in regenerative farming and the use of technology to encourage farmers to move towards more sustainable methods of food production.
But Mr Eustice defended the government’s record, saying: “We now have about half the farmers in what we call Countryside Stewardship doing exactly the kind of regenerative agriculture that Thomasina talks about.”