British consumers could face shortages of black tea products in supermarkets as the unrest in the Red Sea continues.
Grocery giant Sainsbury’s was the first to warn shoppers in stores that there are “nationwide” problems that could impact the availability of black tea in the near future.
A sign in one Sainsbury’s store said: “We are experiencing supply issues affecting the nationwide supply of black tea. We apologise for any inconvenience and hope to be back in full supply soon.”
Despite the warning, supermarket retail bosses have reassured shoppers that the problems are “temporary” and emphasised that the impact on consumers is anticipated to be “minimal”, according to reports.
Andrew Opie, British Retail Consortium (BRC) director of food and sustainability, 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.”
The Guardian contacted other supermarkets who did not report stock issues. Waitrose said it was not currently experiencing any shortages.
China, India, Sri Lanka and Kenya produce around three quarters of tea products globally and freight shipments from Asia and East Africa have faced ongoing disruption over the last few months, which has resulted in ships being re-routed.
Ships having to re-route around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope is adding at least 10 days to shipping times, as well as added costs in fuel and crew time.
The problems in the Red Sea started in December last year as Houthi rebels in Yemen began attacking vessels in the Gulf region in support of Palestinian Hamas.