As Ukraine is a major supplier of sunflower oil to the UK, supply chain problems have led to shortages and changed consumption patterns
Major British supermarket chains have restricted the amount of cooking oil customers can buy, a move due to shortages and subsequent changes in consumption patterns as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. According to the British food regulator, the former Soviet Republic is responsible for a “significant proportion” of sunflower oil supplies in the UK.
Tesco, Morrisons and upmarket chain Waitrose have all confirmed to the media that they have put in place a limit on the number of cooking oil bottles a customer can purchase.
†To ensure that all our customers can continue to get what they need, we have put in place a temporary purchase limit of three items per customer on products from our cooking oil rangeTesco said in a statement, reassuring customers that there are “good availability of cooking oils in stores and online.†
Waitrose and Morrisons took a similar step, limiting each customer to just two items.
According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, Ukraine and Russia together are responsible for 53% of world trade in sunflower oil and seeds and 27% in wheat.
As a result of the military conflict, the price of sunflower oil in the UK has risen 60% from £1,130 a tonne in February to more than £1,800 in March, according to Mintec analysts. The shortages of the oil have prompted manufacturers and restaurants to change recipes and replace them with other types of oil.
The changes in consumption have caused the prices of cooking oil, which had already risen before the conflict in Ukraine started, to skyrocket as hostilities began. In early April, prices were 22% higher than a year ago, The Guardian reported, citing NielsenIQ analysis.
The urgent need to replace sunflower oil with other types of oil has prompted the UK Food Standards Agency to warn consumers of the increased risk of food allergies. At the end of March, the regulator said that “it is highly unlikely that the industry will be able to relabel products as quickly as oil substitutions can occur, which could lead to the presence of mislabeled products on the market.†
Meanwhile, the conflict in Ukraine is not the only contributing factor to a shortage of cooking oil. On Friday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a ban on the export of palm oil, the world’s most widely consumed edible oil.
Given that Indonesia accounts for more than a third of global vegetable oil exports, this move will seriously exacerbate the already strained supply of cooking oil around the world, with developing countries most affected.
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