Former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King has been blamed Brexit and a lack of government support on energy bills for the vegetable shortages hitting supermarkets.

Morrison’s and Asda this week announced they are limiting customers to only three items each on a number of products including salad bags, lettuce and raspberries.

Supermarkets have blamed bad weather in Spain and Morocco for the shortages.

Restaurant and pub groups have also flagged up potential menu shortages, with Clive Watson, chairman of City Pub Group saying the company had seen shortages of cauliflowers, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, and courgettes.

But according to Kate Nicholls of UKHospitality, restaurants and pubs are not seeing widespread shortages, despite higher prices and supply disruption.

King, who is a senior advisor to itsu, M&S and sat on the National Food Strategy with Henry Dimbleby, said a number of issues had led to the situation, including a decline in UK greenhouses that grow such everyday products.

He criticised the government for failing to include supermarkets in its energy support scheme.

“These are products that we do produce, or at least have produced all year round in the UK,” King told LBC. “In north Kent, in Thanet, [there are] the largest greenhouses in Europe, which used to be full of cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes. Sainsbury’s used to have year-round British tomatoes.

“But those greenhouses have suffered, really, from two big things. It’s a sector that’s been hurt horribly by Brexit but by far the biggest issue for that sector has been the government chose not to make it part of this energy support package this week.

“Without the support on energy, it’s not been economically viable to produce under glass this winter in the UK.”

So far, other supermarket chains have yet to take similar actions to restrict items sold to customers. Waitrose, The Co-operative, Lidl, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Ocado have all confirmed that they are not rationing food items, though they are monitoring the situation.

The comments come amid warnings of mounting shortages of fruit & veg over the coming weeks as a combination of bad weather and logistics issues start to bite.

Shoppers have been reporting empty shelves in recent days, with key suppliers warning the supply chain issues are driving “exceptionally” high wholesale prices.

According to data from Nationwide Produce, the spot price for boxes of some vegetables are up two or three times as much as the normal rate, with Dutch, cherry tomatoes, aubergines and yellow peppers all significantly up.

“I can honestly say that in the 40 years I’ve been in this trade, I’ve never seen such high prices across such a broad range of products for such a prolonged period of time,” Tim O’Malley, group MD of Nationwide Produce told The Grocer.

However Kate Nicholls played down the impact on the hospitality sector so far.

“Hospitality continues to work hard to boost the resilience of its supply chain in order to minimise the impact of temporary shortages due to environmental issues of the type being seen in retail,” she said. “This includes sourcing local where possible and having a multi-source supply.”

“So while we are seeing higher prices and intermittent supply disruption, we are managing to navigate through the current challenges without seeing widespread shortages and customers should be confident of having a choice of good quality, seasonal fruit and vegetables when they choose to eat out.”