Spanish farmers say the shortage of lettuce in European retailers will continue into March as a result of bad winter weather conditions. But, as Sonia Legg reports, they say the recent rationing by supermarkets in the UK was not their fault.
It might look sunny now but this year's weather in southern Spain has been anything but. The region of Murcia has experienced the worst floods in two decades. And that's not all. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FARMER AND SALESMAN IN MURCIA FOR KERNEL EXPORT, JOSE ANTONIO CANOVAS MARTINEZ, SAYING: "The disaster was very similar to the one we had in 1983, we were hit by heavy rain, then extreme cold and it ended with snow." Salad crops in particular didn't like it and Spain wasn't alone. Vegetable production across the EU has fallen by 40 percent in recent weeks. Some supermarkets in Britain even started rationing lettuces. Spain's producers insist that was their own fault. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) GENERAL MANAGER OF THE MURCIAN FEDERATION OF PRODUCERS AND EXPORTERS OF FRUIT AND VEGETABLES (PROEXPORT), FERNANDO GOMEZ, SAYING: "In a situation like this it is normal for prices to rise a bit. There are no supply problems in Germany, Spain, or France. If the English supermarkets bought their lettuce at the proper market rate, there would have been no problems there either." Farmers hope to resume normal service by the end of March. But many have suffered financially. Few insure their crops and their slim profit margins rely on big volumes. Higher prices help a bit - but specialised labour is needed to deal with frozen or waterlogged fields and that too eats into profits. For many here spring can't come soon enough.