Is there a lettuce shortage? Why KFC has switched to offer cabbage in Australia - could same happen in UK

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KFC customers are seeing cabbage in their burgers and wraps due to a shortage of lettuce in Australia

KFC customers have been told to expect a mixture of lettuce and cabbage in their dishes after floods destroyed lettuce crops in Australia.

With concerns that this may affect UK stores, we take a look at the Australian situation and why they are facing a lettuce shortage.

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Is there a lettuce shortage? 

Fried chicken chain KFC said on June 7 that high lettuce prices in Australia have forced it to switch to a cabbage mix in burgers and other products, prompting customers to complain the result is less than "finger lickin' good".Fried chicken chain KFC said on June 7 that high lettuce prices in Australia have forced it to switch to a cabbage mix in burgers and other products, prompting customers to complain the result is less than "finger lickin' good".
Fried chicken chain KFC said on June 7 that high lettuce prices in Australia have forced it to switch to a cabbage mix in burgers and other products, prompting customers to complain the result is less than "finger lickin' good". | Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images

Much like the rest of the world, Australia is struggling with soaring prices of everyday food items, and photos of single lettuces on sale are costing as much as 10 Australian dollars (£5.72).

KFC Australia said on their website: “Due to the recent floods in New South Wales and Queensland we’re currently experiencing a lettuce shortage.

“So, we’re using a lettuce and cabbage blend on all products containing lettuce until further notice.

“If that’s not your bag, simply click “Customise” on your chosen product and remove Lettuce from the Recipe.”

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In a statement, the fast-food giant expanded and said: “We’ve hit a bit of an Iceberg and are currently experiencing some lettuce supply chain disruptions due to the impacts of the recent Queensland and NSW floods

“We’re working with our multiple suppliers to provide them with support, but we do expect disruptions to continue in the coming days. Apologies for any inconvenience caused, we appreciate you all being Little Gems as we work to get things back to normal ASAP.”

Supply chain expert Flavio Macau of Edith Cowan University told AFP news agency that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was also a factor, increasing diesel and fertiliser prices.

Has this happened before?

In January 2022, KFC Australia had to change its menu due to a lack of its main ingredient, chicken.

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This was caused by a shortage of staff at Ingham’s, Australia’s biggest chicken supplier, due to “rapid spread of the Omicron variant across eastern Australian states" at the end of 2021.

But this is happening to many restaurants.

Last August, McDonald’s said it had removed milkshakes and bottled drinks off the menu in Britain, as supply issues affected the retail and hospitality sector.

At the same time, Nando’s was forced to temporarily close more than 40 outlets in the UK, after a staff shortage hit its chicken supply chain.

In Japan and Singapore, in December 2021, McDonald’s announced a chip shortage and had to ration french fries.

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Factors such as the war in Ukraine, the pandemic and the climate crisis causing major flooding on Australia’s east coast, are driving up the cost of living.

In Australia, the cost of living has surged by 5.1% in the first three months of 2022.

The Reserve Bank of Australia increased its main interest rate by half a percentage point to 0.85%, and Australia’s central bank raised the cost of borrowing as it tries to control the soaring inflation.

How have people reacted? 

People have not taken to the cabbage-related news kindly in Australia. One person wrote on Twitter: “The fact that you are replacing lettuce with cabbage makes me rethink my whole meal at KFC. There’s 4 or 5 other things I would eat before cabbage Its such a weird choice.”

Another wrote: “Feels like a sign of the apocalypse”.

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A third tweeted: “Hey @KFCAustralia instead of substituting cabbage for lettuce u should use a hash brown instead.”

Could this happen in the UK?

In April 2022, some supermarkets such as Morrisons had a shortage of meat and lettuce. Yorkshire Live reported a customer information notice which said: "Due to disruptions within our supply chain, we are seeing low availability on lettuce. Apologies for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your understanding."

They reported that a number of factors such as the war in Ukraine and SPanish floods have caused shortage of some foodstuffs to UK markets.

However, whether the lettuce crisis will affect UK KFC restaurants is still yet to be seen.

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