The United Kingdom might face a minor shortage of one of the nation’s most popular products.
The British Retail Consortium has reported “temporary disruption” in some varieties of black tea, and a source within the industry mentioned delays in flavoured tea varieties.
Despite the two largest supermarket chains in the country showing sufficient stock on their websites on Tuesday, there is a general concern that the duration of the maritime disturbances in the Red Sea could lead to shortages on European shelves.
This is the first time a food product has been flagged for potential delays, following alerts from clothing retailers about similar issues due to attacks by Iran-aligned Houthi militia on vessels in the Red Sea area, affecting trade routes between Asia and Europe.
The UK, being the fifth-largest tea importer globally, relies heavily on imports from Kenya and India, which account for over half of its tea imports, making the Red Sea route crucial for its supply.
The UK imports unprocessed tea for local processing and packaging, positioning it as the 10th largest tea exporter worldwide, as per the Institute of Export & International Trade (IEIT).
Andrew Opie, the 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.”
A source with knowledge of UK manufacturing noted minor delays but did not foresee a substantial shortage.
Marco Forgione, the IEIT Director General, warned that tea might be just one of several items affected by the ongoing supply chain crisis.
Opting for the alternative maritime route around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope could extend a journey by 10-14 days compared to the traditional route through the Red Sea and Suez Canal.
The disruption of tea supply to the UK is just one example of many consumer and commercial products being impacted by the events in the Red Sea. While the current crisis will not cut Briton’s off of their tea supply, it signals that the supply chain issues can impact all areas of the economy.