Therese Coffey tells people to eat turnips to end supermarket crisis

Eating turnips instead of tomatoes could help avoid fruit and vegetable shortages during the winter, the Environment Secretary has suggested. Therese Coffey told MPs that shortages of produce will be a temporary issue that should be resolved in two to four weeks.

A lack of tomatoes in supermarkets has widened to other fruit and vegetables due to bad weather and transport problems in Africa and Europe.

Ms Coffey told the Commons: “Even if we cannot control the weather, it is important that we try to make sure the supply continues to not be frustrated in quite the way it has been due to these unusual weather incidents.”

Fellow Tory Selaine Saxby, MP for North Devon, said: “The supermarkets are still importing far too many products for us and… actually we should be eating more seasonally and supporting our own British farmers.

“If we were to move to a seasonal line of eating, many of these problems would be avoided… there are great food products available from local farmers at this time.”

Ms Coffey replied: “A lot of people would be eating turnips right now rather than thinking necessarily about aspects of lettuce and tomatoes and similar, but I’m conscious that consumers want a year-round choice.”

Ms Coffey spoke after Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons rationed the sale of “summer” salad produce.

Philip Pearson, director of tomato producer APS said: “The consumer has to pay more for food. Food is far, far too cheap, I’m afraid. As an industry, we can’t absorb it any more.”

The British Tomato Growers Association said: “The British season will soon begin and we expect significant volumes of British tomatoes on shelves by the end of March.”

A Downing Street spokesman said: “We don’t believe it is for us to tell people what they should or shouldn’t buy – it’s entirely a matter for them.”

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