Stores in Britain could face shortages of tea supplies due to disruption on trade routes and delays, state recent reports after supermarket Sainsbury’s warning over its availability.
Retail giant Sainsbury’s told consumers there were problems that could affect the availability of black tea, although it is expected to be for a short period.
Retail bosses, however, have said the problems are temporary and stressed that the impact on consumers is expected to be minimal.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, 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.”
It is understood that the disruption is linked to Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, as well as supply and demand delays with one supermarket tea supplier.
Tea is largely produced in Asia and East Africa, with China, India, Sri Lanka and Kenya producing around three-quarters of tea globally.
Violence by Houthi rebels in the region caused most shipping firms using the key trade route, which heads towards the Suez Canal, to redirect shipments around the Cape of Good Hope at the foot of Africa. This adds roughly 10 to 14 days to shipment times, as well as increased costs for shipping firms.
Last year, UK saw a series of food shortages from eggs to tomatoes. The war in Ukraine also affected supplies as the region is a major producer of wheat which is a main ingredient of chicken feed. All major British supermarkets imposed a limit of a maximum of two or three boxes of eggs per customer as many shoppers faced empty shelves.
Britons have so far largely avoided tea shortages in recent times, though Twinings suffered “challenges” with sourcing its lapsang souchong blend last April which led to it being replaced with an imitation that angered some fans.
Last summer, Tetley narrowly avoided a tea shortage crisis after workers in the GMB Union accepted a new pay deal that called off planned strike action for 200 workers at Tata Consumer Products Limited in Teesside, the only producer of Tetley tea bags for the UK and Canada.