Why is There a Cooking Oil Shortage?

Cooking oil shortages have hit the UK hard, as well as the rest of the world, for a number of reasons. With the war in Ukraine and Indonesia banning exports to protect their own domestic oil supplies, the shortage has not only forced consumers to look for alternatives but it has also driven prices up to a record high, making it even harder for customers to get their hands on a bottle of cooking oil. So why is there a shortage, how is the industry coping and when will things get back to normal?
Cooking Oil Shortage

Why is there a shortage of cooking oil right now?

The Evening Standard has reported that the war in Ukraine has caused disruption in the availability of cooking oil, mainly because they’re one of the UK’s largest suppliers of sunflower oil. With the Russian-Ukrainian war still underway, it has had a knock-on effect on the amount of cooking oil consumers can buy, thus affecting, not only domestic users, but commercial users also, including, but not limited to, the following:
  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Cafes
  • Takeaways
  • Chip shops
  • Care homes
  • Catering businesses
  • Hotels
  • Hospitals

Palm oil supplies have also been hit hard, despite consumers turning to palm oil as an alternative to conventional cooking oil. This is because Indonesia’s supplies have been heavily limited so as to protect domestic stock. As a result, on Thursday 28th April, they announced an export ban. This therefore impacts the prices of other oil types which then has a negative impact, financially, on the customer, no matter which type of oil they choose.

How is the food industry coping with cooking oil shortages?

The shortage of sunflower oil in particular has hit retailers and the food industry hard. Not only is it difficult for suppliers, wholesalers and supermarkets to keep on top of the issue, it’s also hard for businesses, such as chip shops, takeaways, caterers and even care homes, to keep operating.

Other organisations will also face difficulties when it comes to food preparation and cooking, including hospitals. So what has the food industry done to help relieve some of the pressure? According to The Guardian, food manufacturers rely heavily on sunflower oil, especially, to make hundreds of foods, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Crisps
  • Biscuits
  • Fish fingers
  • Mayonnaise

Thanks to the shortage, food manufacturing giants have had to change their go-to recipes at short notice, instead switching to alternatives such as rapeseed oil. As a result, however, it has meant that companies have had to also change their packaging to ensure it details the correct ingredients as reference for the consumer.

Companies have also called for the government to relax their biofuel mandates in order to move crops away from fuel tanks and increase vegetable oil supplies in the process. Biofuel has been used to help cut our reliance on fossil fuels and, as a result, it now accounts for 15% of the global demand for vegetable oil, hence why food manufacturers are wanting to divert the focus, temporarily, away from sustainable fuel efforts. Although, there has been no indication that this will be happening any time soon.

How are supermarkets managing cooking oil shortages?

Supermarkets are responding to the cooking oil shortage by rationing the number of bottles a domestic customer can buy at any one time. According to The Daily Record, Morrisons, Waitrose and Tesco are among the supermarket giants who have started to ration their cooking oil supplies, each one putting different restrictions in place. Correct as of April 2022, food stores have put the following rules in place:
  • Tesco – three bottles per person
  • Waitrose – two bottles per person
  • Morrisons – two bottles per person
  • Iceland – one bottle per person
Sainsbury’s, Asda, Aldi and Lidl are among the supermarkets who are yet to put rations in place when it comes to buying bottles of cooking oil. However, Tom Holder, who works for the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has assured consumers that these restrictions are only temporary, adding that; “some retailers have introduced limits on the number of bottles customers can buy as a temporary measure to ensure availability for everyone. Where sunflower oil exists as an ingredient in products, retailers will be substituting it with other safe oils, such as rapeseed oil. Retailers are also working with suppliers to ramp up production of alternative cooking oils, to minimise the impact on consumers”.

When will cooking oil supplies return to normal?

According to The Guardian, Gary Lewis who works for oil importer KTC Edibles, claims that the cooking oil shortage is likely to last until at least the end of the summer season. The relief is only likely to come thanks to rapeseed oil crops becoming readily available to buy. However, he did say that’; “there may be some more supplies of EU and Argentine sunflower oil on the market in the next few months, but it will still be limited”

The VigourTimes reported that Kantar, a data analytics and brand consulting company, claimed consumers are now paying up to 20% more for one litre of vegetable oil in 2022 and 16% more for sunflower oil in the same year.

As a result of the shortage, shoppers will soon find themselves buying a mixture of cooking oils as retailers and food industry giants work hard to fill the gaps in the shelves, reports the Guardian. Soybean and corn oils, including vegetable oil blends made from rapeseed and soy will soon be available to help meet demand, whilst simultaneously trying to keep costs down for the consumer.
Cater Oils are able to provide customers with free used cooking oil collection services, turning your waste cooking oil into biodiesel for sustainable fuel. Not only will this lower your carbon footprint, but you’ll be helping to keep ours to an absolute minimum as well. We’ll even give you cash or a credit note against our cooking oil supply service – whichever you’d prefer. For more information, get in touch with us today.

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