Ukraine crisis: Sunflower oil could be next shortage, says UK bottling company

Pouring food oil in hot pan for deep frying.
The biggest cooking oil bottler has said it will run out of stocks. (Stock image: Getty)

The biggest bottler of cooking oil for UK retailers only has enough sunflower oil left to last a few weeks, it has said.

Edible Oils, which packages oil for 75% of the UK retail market, said the war in Ukraine had disrupted supplies of sunflower oil, forcing it to look at other oils for customers.

Kim Matthews, commercial director at the company, told the BBC that 80% of the global supply of sunflower oil comes from Ukraine and Russia, with the war disrupting exports and leading to shortages.

He said the company is upping production of other oils such as rapeseed oil to replace sunflower oil if it does run out.

"It's a fast moving situation," he told the BBC. "We're still trying to see if we can get some more but it's looking very tight."

Watch: Tesco boss warns the worst of food price rises is 'yet to come'

Matthews said the issue could be a long-term one, with Ukrainian farmers unable to sow seeds needed for a harvest later this year, meaning the shortage could continue for 12-18 months.

According to the BBC, some manufacturers of foods that use sunflower oil as a key ingredient, such as crisps and cereal bars, are working to alter their recipes to take account of the potential shortage.

Read more: Council tax increase: Map shows areas with highest bills in England

But industry experts have also warned that the shortage means prices for alternatives like rapeseed oil will soar - and will not necessarily be able to cater for demand.

Such rises could then be passed on to customers, adding to the list of products and services that are experiencing price hikes.

File photo dated 03/02/22 of an online energy bill, as the biggest jump in domestic energy bills in living memory has come into effect as charities warn that 2.5 million more households are set to fall into
Food price rises and shortages are coming alongside huge hikes in energy prices, leading to one of the worst cost of living crises in recent times. (Stock image: Getty)

Customers in the UK are currently experiencing one of the biggest cost of living crises in recent times, due to the coronavirus pandemic as well as the effects of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Alongside increases in energy prices, people are seeing the price of food rise.

Over the past year, a number of food staples have seen steep price rises, with cooking ingredients subject to the highest spikes, such as margarine and vegetable fats which rose 37.2%.

Pasta and couscous also rose by nearly 15%, while condiments including jam, marmalade and honey increased 13.6%.

This comes after Tesco chair John Allan warned earlier this month that the worst of rising food prices is “yet to come”, saying that food prices at his chain could rise 5% in the coming months.