Lidl and Waitrose to sell ‘wonky’ UK fruit and vegetables amid drought

Supermarket chain says taking ‘different but perfectly good’ produce will help support farmers

Lidl and Waitrose will start selling “wonky” fruit and vegetables that have been “stunted” by UK drought conditions as part of efforts to support farmers struggling with the driest summer for 50 years.

Lidl said it had written to its British suppliers who may need extra support, and would try to accommodate produce hit by extreme weather, even if it was different from what shoppers were used to.

The supermarket chain said it wanted to ensure that perfectly good fruit and vegetables did not go to waste.

“Farmers across the country are facing a big challenge this year due to the extreme weather conditions experienced over the summer months,” said Lidl GB’s chief executive, Ryan McDonnell.

“Whilst the crop coming out may look and feel a bit different to what we’re all used to, it’s still the same great British quality,” he added. “We therefore want to show support for our suppliers by working with them to find solutions to help.”

Meanwhile, Waitrose said it would relax size and shape guidelines for new season potatoes, carrots, strawberries, apples, pears and peppers, as part of its “A Little Less Than Perfect” range.

The supermarket added that it would divert wonky and misshapen vegetables into its own-brand soup, ready meals and smoothies.

Paul Bidwell, a fresh produce buying manager at Waitrose, said: “Our Little Less Than Perfect range is nothing new – we’ve done it for years, but we constantly look at ways we can support our farmers through challenging conditions and often that means altering our specifications.

“Many of our UK suppliers have managed through the drought thanks to back up water supplies from reservoirs or rainwater capture systems so we’ve focused our efforts on those that need the most help. What’s in store may look a bit different at times but it will always represent the same great quality, taste and high standards our customers are used to.”

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Several areas of the UK are still in drought despite heavy rain and thunderstorms over the past week. Drought was officially declared across eight regions of England on 12 August, with a ninth, Yorkshire, added a few days later.

Experts from the National Drought Group have since warned of widespread crop failures across England. According to leaked documents seen by the Guardian, the group has raised concerns that half of the potato crop could fail as it cannot be irrigated owing to hosepipe bans, and crops that are usually drought-tolerant, such as maize, have been failing.

They are also expecting losses of 10%-50% for crops including carrots, onions, sugar beet, apples and hops. Milk production has dropped nationally because of a lack of food for cows, and wildfires are putting large areas of farmland at risk.


Kalyeena Makortoff

The GuardianTramp

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