The famous Albanian ‘tallon’ of communism era is back. But paradoxically in the EU countries. Supermarket giant Tesco has rationed customers to three iceberg lettuces per visit, blaming poor growing conditions in Europe for a shortage in UK stores. Morrisons has also limited shoppers to three heads of broccoli and three iceberg lettuces, the Daily Mail said.

According to AgroWeb.org evidence, bad weather in Spain had caused availability issues, but suppliers were working to resolve the problem.

Customers in UK have posted photographs on social media sites of empty lettuce shelves in Tesco stores, alongside signs asking them to limit lettuce purchases. One notice read: "Due to continued weather problems in Spain there is a shortage of iceberg lettuce. To protect the availability to all our customers, we are limiting bulk purchases to three per person. We apologize for any inconvenience caused."

Representatives of British Leafy Salads Association, told the BBC that flooding in Spain before Christmas had damaged crops, and grounds were then too wet to grow a fresh batch.

The problem was compounded by a cold snap of weather in January, stopping farmers going out and planting.

Southern Spain provides around 80% of the fresh produce for the EU out of season, so it is not just the UK. There are still stocks coming in, albeit at a reduced rate. It is as low as 30-50% of the normal - but the challenge is British are not the only people buying it. With Germany, France and the rest of the EU too, the people who are prepared to pay are going to get it. Experts states that there was not a clear end in sight to the shortage.

Albanian tallon, a fixed amount of a commodity officially allowed to each person during communist era. Photo: WebLibrary

As AgroWeb.org, reported, last month, fruit and vegetable were imported in Europe from United States which is obviously costing more.

There's a gap of about six weeks on iceberg lettuce, nothing is coming from Spain for six to eight weeks in Europe. The supply of other vegetables - including aborigines, tomatoes, broccoli and peppers - grown in Europe is also down.

The Spanish association of fruit and vegetable producers, said it expected the shortage of leafy vegetables grown outdoors, including lettuce and spinach, to continue until early April.

It said EU-wide production was down by about 40% and warned that increased availability would depend on the climate in southern Europe in February and March.

Spain's Murcia region supplies 80% of Europe's fresh produce during the winter. However, after suffering its heaviest rainfall in 30 years, only 30% of Murcia's growing fields have been useable. The effects of shortages are particularly pronounced in Britain, which imports an estimated 50% of its vegetables and 90% of its fruit.

Empty lettuce shelves in Tesco stores  signs asking clients to limit lettuce purchases. Photo: WebLibrary

Great opportunity for Albanian exports - Get certified

Vegetable shortage due to extreme frosts in several European countries could be a great opportunity for the Albanian farmers to export fruits and vegetables. Although in our country, the cold weather dominated this period, temperatures seem to have been no harmful for crops in greenhouses.

But yet, many products from Albania to date cannot penetrate this huge potential market EU has to offer because they lack standard certification.

Global GAP certification as well as high ISO standards are a key requirement by the major groceries and international supermarkets. Adhering to EU standards is key for the agriculture as an extremely important source of income for Albania, but Albanian companies should be certified with safety standard certifications. A practice which would make a large impact and enable producers to approach new EU markets and increase opportunities for exports sales./AgroWeb.org