SUPERMARKETS in Spain – particularly in Murcia – have been accused by a right-wing British tabloid of withholding stacks of lettuce for themselves instead of exporting them, forcing UK stores to limit purchases to two or three per person.
Under the witty headline, ‘Tip of the iceberg’, the standfirst of The Sun’s story proclaims: “Spanish supermarkets secretly hoarding massive stockpiles of vegetables despite British shoppers facing RATIONING.”
In a furious campaign apparently aimed at casting the blame on Spain for its own greens shortage caused by unprecedented winter cold, The Sun shows photos of Spanish chains such as Mercadona with shelves full of lettuce and contrasts them with pictures of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda, where the salad compartments are empty.
An earlier article in The Sun, called ‘Seize a salad’, says: “Spaniards stockpile five-a-day as British consumers show signs of panic-buying.”
The report says the drought followed by the cold snap on the east coast, especially in Murcia which stocks nine in 10 lettuces in UK supermarkets, is the cause of the shortage, but appears to think exporting them to Britain should be a priority before supplying consumers in Spain.
A picture from inside Mercadona in Molina de Segura is captioned, ‘No way, José’, and followed by the sub-heading ‘Brits hit out’.
The article quotes a British woman who ‘seethes’ that it is ‘sickening’ and Spain should ‘make sure more gets to’ the UK.
It even claims Spain is ‘secretly hoarding’ lettuce and other vegetables, as though it were a kind of conspiracy or a form of boycotting the UK.
Spaniards reading the Sun article, including several who live in the UK, have debunked its accusations in the comments section.
They say the treatment British supermarkets give their importers, in their relentless drive to be as competitive as possible, is chasing suppliers away, and that Spain now has a ‘European clementine mountain’ after UK stores began to ditch Spanish oranges as those from Morocco were cheaper.
Others point out that the best cuts of any agricultural produce in Spain – which a high proportion of the country still lives off – are exported and that it is in the country’s interests to do so rather than to ‘stockpile’, since the prices paid by the UK and Germany are far higher than nationally.
And some commenters point out that ‘stockpiling’ perishable goods is impossible, or at least counter-productive.