Supermarkets are limiting how much cooking oil customers can buy at once due to global shortages and soaring cost increases as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine is the world’s leading exporter of sunflower oil, and Russia is number two.
Prices for food commodities like grains and vegetable oils reached their highest levels ever last month largely because of the ongoing conflict, with the biggest cost increases recorded for vegetable oils.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said its Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in international prices for a basket of commodities, rose by 23.2 per cent for vegetable oils, driven by higher quotations for sunflower seed oil that is used for cooking .
Now the BBC is reporting that Tesco is allowing three cooking oil items per customer, with Waitrose and Morrisons both limiting shoppers to two items each. The British Retail Consortium said the restrictions were a temporary measure ‘to ensure availability for everyone’, said the BBC.
Olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils are all included in the limits being put in place by some supermarkets, both in-store and online. Iceland, meanwhile, have not yet commented on pictures posted on social media of signs that have appeared in its stores limiting sales of two-litre and five-litre bottles of sunflower oil to one per customer.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Waitrose said: “We are closely monitoring the situation and working with our suppliers to ensure customers continue to have a choice of cooking oils.” Sainsbury’s and Asda are not currently limiting how much cooking oil their customers can buy.
A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said: “We are working closely with our suppliers to make sure customers continue to have cooking oils to choose from including olive oil, vegetable oil and rapeseed oil.”
Tom Holder from the British Retail Consortium said restrictions being put in place by some supermarkets were a temporary measure, ‘to ensure availability for everyone’. He added that ‘retailers are working with suppliers to ramp up production of alternative cooking oils, to minimize the impact on consumers’.
Soaring food prices and disruption to supplies from Russia and Ukraine have threatened food shortages in countries in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia where many people were already not getting enough to eat.
Those nations rely on affordable supplies of wheat and other grains from the Black Sea region to feed millions of people who subsist on subsidized bread and bargain noodles, and they now face the possibility of further political instability.
Other large grain producers like the US, Canada, France, Australia and Argentina are being closely watched to see if they can quickly ramp up production to fill the gaps, but farmers face issues like climbing fuel and fertilizer costs exacerbated by the war, drought and supply chain disruptions.
Indonesia said on Friday it would ban exports of cooking oil and its raw materials to reduce domestic shortages and hold down skyrocketing prices. President Joko Widodo made the announcement on Friday, a day after hundreds of people protested in the capital against rising food costs.
Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s largest exporters of palm oil, which plays an important role in their economies. They account for 85 per cent of global palm oil production.
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