Trouble brewing? Brits may be deprived of their favourite brew due to Red Sea shipping problems, according to the British Retail Consortium. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)


Leaf it out! Brits may run short of tea due to Red Sea attacks


Britons may start to boil over if the reported possibility of tea shortages come to pass.

Trouble is brewing after the supermarket industry warned of a risk to supply from shipping disruptions in the Red Sea.

The British Retail Consortium said it had seen “temporary disruption” to some black-tea lines and an industry source said there had been some “delays” to flavoured lines.

Although the UK’s two biggest supermarket groups showed ample supply on their websites on February 13, companies have warned in general that the length of disruptions to Red Sea shipping will determine whether British, and European, tea lovers might suffer the almost unthinkable distress of empty shelves.

The warning of delays is the first for a food item, following several from clothing retailers after Iran-alignedHouthi terrorists attacked ships in and around the Red Sea, slowing trade between Asia and Europe.

Britain, the world’s fifth-largest tea importer, gets more than half of its tea from Kenya and India, making it dependent on the Red Sea route.

Unprocessed tea is shipped into the UK for processing and packaging, helping to make Britain the 10th largest exporter globally, according to the Institute of Export & International Trade (IEIT).

“There is temporary disruption to some black tea lines, but the impact on consumers will be minimal as retailers are not expecting significant challenges,” said Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, which represents the major supermarket groups.

An industry source familiar with UK manufacturing said that, while there were a few delays, they did not expect a “big shortage”.

IEIT director general Marco Forgione, chillingly, added that tea may be “the first of many items caught up in this supply chain crisis”.

The alternative shipping route around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope can add 10-14 days to a journey compared to passage via the Red Sea and Suez Canal. By which time most Brits’ favourite brew will have gone cold.

Several major UK clothing retailers, including Next, PepcoPe, Primark and Matalan, have cautioned on the potential impact of disruption to Red Sea shipments.

Time to get the kettle on …