Is There Actually A Tea Shortage?
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Is There Actually A Tea Shortage?

Supply chain issues are affecting tea shipments

If there’s one thing us Brits love, it’s a good cuppa. So, naturally, the nation has been sent into a frenzy following reports of a tea shortage. But should we actually be worried? 

The UK Tea Shortages Explained

Sainsbury’s have warned that nationwide supply problems could lead to a shortage of black tea on supermarket shelves. A sign in one shop said: ‘We are experiencing supply issues affecting the nationwide supply of black tea. We apologise for any inconvenience and hope to be back in full supply soon.’

Britain is the world’s fifth largest tea importer, with most of our supplies coming from Asia and East Asia – particularly from Kenya and India, which export roughly £107.52m and £107.52m of tea into the UK each year respectively. This means our tea supplies are heavily dependent on freight shipments from the Red Sea route, which is currently facing disruption as a result of recent Houthi attacks on vessels. Many shipping firms are opting to redirect shipments around the Cape of Good Hope at the foot of Africa, which adds around 10 to 14 days onto shipment times, hence the delay.

milk being poured into tea

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A spokesperson from Tetley Tea has spoken on current tea supplies, telling the BBC: ‘At the moment it’s much tighter than we would like it to be but we’re pretty confident we can maintain supply levels. Our priority is to maintain our consistent high levels of service, based on ordered and forecasted demand. We believe we can continue to deliver this, but acknowledge that this is a critical period which requires our constant attention.’

Yorkshire Tea, meanwhile, has said: ‘Unfortunately, the ongoing shipping disruptions are affecting the grocery category… we’re monitoring the situation closely.’

However, experts have stressed that the problems are temporary, and the effect will be ‘minimal’. Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: ‘There is temporary disruption to some black tea lines, but the impact on consumers will be minimal as retailers are not expecting significant challenges.’

What Other Supplies Are Being Affected?

According to experts, the ongoing supply chain issues are likely to affect other items, too. Food supply professor Chris Elliot told The i that supplies of perishable goods such as oranges and grapes are likely to be impacted, as well as some spices. Italian farmers’ organisation Coldiretti, too, has warned the Red Sea crisis may affect the export of fruits, particularly apples. 

However, a spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs said back in January: ‘The UK has a highly resilient food supply chain that is well equipped to deal with any potential disruption. Our high degree of food security is built on supply from diverse sources including strong domestic production and imports through stable trade routes.’