business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  The New York Times reports this morning that "five leading supermarket chains in Britain have limited the number of some vegetables that customers can buy, deepening the pressure on policymakers to confront the shrinking supply of salad ingredients.

"Last weekend, Lidl, the German discount supermarket chain, said it was limiting the sale of cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes to three per customer, joining four other chains — Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Aldi — that have capped the sales of some produce. Lidl said there was good availability in its stores and that the measures were precautionary."

The reason?  The Times writes that "frosty temperatures in Spain, the primary supplier of British vegetables, have damaged crops, particularly in the Spanish province of Almería, where tomato sales were down 22 percent in the first two weeks of February, compared to a year ago, according to Fepex, an organization representing Spanish producers and exporters of fruits and vegetables. Cucumber sales fell 21 percent and pepper and eggplant sales fell 25 percent, the organization said."

The story notes that the UK has seen more availability issues than other European countries because the chains there have been focused on keeping prices low - an unwillingness to raise prices has simply led to a shortage of produce.  Elsewhere in Europe, supermarkets "have been more willing to pay higher prices for vegetables in short supply, earning them preferential treatment from suppliers."

•  BrightFarms announced that it "is expanding with four new regional greenhouse hubs offering sustainably grown leafy greens to more people across the Eastern and Central U.S. The new locations will begin shipping to retailers in 2024 to help fulfill increasing demand. This expansion and commitment to innovation is expected to set BrightFarms up for 10x revenue growth … Construction is underway on the first regional hub in Yorkville, Illinois, and BrightFarms will break ground on similar facilities in Macon, Georgia and Lorena, Texas this summer, followed by another hub in the Northeast later this year. Each location is strategically positioned near a major metropolitan area, and has a combined up to 200-acre footprint with the ability to produce approximately 150 million pounds of leafy greens per year once complete."

Forget Texas and Georgia … maybe BrightFarms ought to think about building facilities outside London.

•  NBC News reports that "the Department of Homeland Security has widened its investigation into migrant children found cleaning slaughterhouses and is now working with the Justice Department to examine whether a human smuggling scheme brought migrant children to work in multiple slaughterhouses for multiple companies across multiple states, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the investigation.

"At the heart of the investigation is determining how Central American children, some as young as 13, wound up working dangerous jobs that are legal only for American adults by presenting identification stolen from U.S. citizens, the officials said. 

"Last month, the Labor Department found that Packers Sanitation Services Inc., known as PSSI, employed 102 children at 13 slaughterhouses across eight states. The children were cleaning blood and animal parts off the floor of meatpacking plants by night and going to school by day, the Labor Department investigators said … So far the investigation is focused on smugglers who may have provided the children with false identities and possibly led them to dangerous jobs. The companies themselves are not targets of the investigation, the officials said."