UK supermarkets begin rationing cooking oil following Ukraine-Russia war supply disruption

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AUTHOR: Molly Long
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Tesco, Morrisons, Iceland and Waitrose have begun rationing cooking oil as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to disrupt supply.

Customers shopping at Tesco are limited to buying three items per person, while Waitrose and Morrisons are allowing just two.

Frozen food specialist supermarket Iceland has made the most drastic rationing decision, with Managing Director Richard Walker confirming on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme some cooking oil would be limited to one bottle per customer.

Additionally, Walker said the retailer had switched to smaller packaging, to allow Iceland’s current stock to go further among its customer base.

Sainsbury’s and Asda, which alongside Tesco and Morrisons make up the ‘big four’ UK supermarkets, are not currently limiting purchases. A spokesperson for the former has said the supermarket has no plans to either.

Most of the UK’s sunflower oil comes from Ukraine, and as a result, supplies of the product have been hugely impacted by the conflict.

Restrictions therefore apply to sunflower oil, but also olive and rapeseed oils, as supermarkets try to ensure all types are available.

British Retail Consortium spokesperson Tom Holder said the move was “to ensure availability for everyone”.

He added that retailers were “working with suppliers to ramp up production of alternative cooking oils, to minimise the impact on consumers”.

A statement from Tesco reaffirmed this stance, saying: “We have good availability of cooking oils in stores and online. If a customer is unable to find their preferred oil, we have plenty of alternatives to choose from.

Rationing is the latest consequence of oil shortages – the UK food industry has already begun swapping out sunflower oil with domestically-produced rapeseed across a number of products like frozen chips and vegetables, breaded fish and crisps.

Additionally, last month Iceland had to renege on its commitment against palm oil as a result of supply chain shortages.

Access to cooking oil is already insecure for many as a result of the cost of living crisis, which is being compounded by the war.  

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the price of cooking oils is nearly a quarter more expensive than a year ago.

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