British tomatoes available at M&S in Singapore amid recent rationing at UK supermarkets

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Following the recent purchase limits introduced in some UK supermarkets due to a shortage of items like cucumbers and tomatoes, a story published by Kent Online has highlighted the peculiarities existing in food supply chains. Despite the much-documented shortage of some fresh food items in the UK, as well as the abundance of fresh produce grown throughout Asia, British-grown cucumbers and tomatoes are being shipped almost 7,000 miles to be sold in M&S branches in Singapore.

British tomatoes available at M&S in Singapore amid recent rationing at UK supermarkets

The Kent Online report explains how a reader’s daughter from Singapore had come across British cucumbers at her local M&S, priced at just under five Singapore dollars.

The reader told the local Kent local newspaper: “I don’t think they should be exporting things like cucumbers so far away when there are limits on how much we can buy.”

Having checked the website of one of M&S’ last mile delivery partners in Singapore, Deliveroo, trans.iNFO can also reveal that British tomatoes and onions are also both freely available.

While the amount of tomatoes and cucumbers M&S ships from Britain across the globe to Singapore is unlikely to be huge, and M&S would likely ship them alongside other non-perishable British products sold in its Singapore branches, the discovery still poses questions about supply chain management.

Free-trading Singapore does of course have an abundance of South-East Asian nations it can source fresh produce from, including Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam just to name a few. Therefore, amid the push for greener supply chains, one could easily argue that it makes little sense to export fresh British products thousands of miles when more regional alternatives are available.

Naturally, it also goes for saying that these British-grown items could easily be purchased in the UK market itself – particularly amid the recent shortages seen in supermarkets across the country.

For those unfamiliar with the UK shortage, it is said that bad weather and an over-dependance among some retailers on Spanish and Moroccan produce has predominantly created the problem. However, there are other factors at play that may have easily exacerbated the issue, including the added bureaucracy created by the UK’s departure from the single market.

Moreover, although it is too early to determine, there have recently been notable changes to road transport laws in the UK that may be impacting logistics. Chief among them is the huge increase in fines for haulage companies and drivers found with clandestine entrants in their vehicles.

After the new rules became law in January, Chris Yarsley, Senior Policy Manager at Logistics UK, expressed concern that EU hauliers would be put off transporting loads into the UK:

“Vehicles crossing the UK’s borders have long been a target for asylum seekers and people smugglers. Logistics UK objected to the new penalty of up to £6,000 for crossing the border with an unsecured vehicle during the passage of the Bill through Parliament, as our members felt it could be seen to be deterring EU businesses from risking a journey to the UK.”

Since then, there have been a few whispers in Facebook groups for international lorry drivers that some Spanish hauliers are resigning from UK work. The scale of the problem is nonetheless unclear at this stage.

On top of this, also in January, the UK restricted the cabotage and combined transport rights of EU hauliers. Although beneficial to UK road transport companies, the move has taken away capacity in the market for the transport of goods already in the country. While Poland has managed to negotiate itself a grace period until the end of this month, other EU countries have not.

The story comes less than a fortnight after Dutch supermarket Albert Heijn reiterated its determination to source as much of its fresh produce from local and regional suppliers. The retailer says its changes, which even include a trial involving the cultivation of ginger in the Netherlands, will mean it no longer uses any air freight for fresh fruit and vegetables.

trans.iNFO has reached out to M&S’ press office for comment on this story.

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