Sainsbury’s is warning shoppers that “nationwide” supply problems could lead to a shortage of black tea on the shelves of UK supermarkets.
The supply problems are believed to be linked, in part, to disruption caused by Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, and affect just one supermarket tea supplier.
A sign in one Sainsbury’s shop said: “We are experiencing supply issues affecting the nationwide supply of black tea. We apologise for any inconvenience and hope to be back in full supply soon.”
Sainsbury’s was contacted for comment.
The issue is likely to impact some stores across Britain, but is expected to be “temporary”, with “minimal” impact on customers.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “There is temporary disruption to some black tea lines, but the impact on consumers will be minimal as retailers are not expecting significant challenges.”
Freight shipments from Asia and East Africa, with China, India, Sri Lanka and Kenya – where around three quarters of tea is produced globally – have faced major disruption over the past two months due to attacks in the Red Sea.
Violence by Houthi fighters in the region caused most shipping firms using the key trade route, which heads towards the Suez Canal, to redirect shipments around the Cape of Good Hope at the foot of Africa.
This typically adds between 10 to 14 days onto shipment times, as well as increased costs for shipping firms.
Joint strikes from the US and UK have been launched on the Yemen-based Houthis in recent weeks in a bid to stop the recent wave of attacks.
The US and Britain launched a wave of strikes against 36 Houthi targets in Yemen at the start of this month, marking the third time the allies conducted a large, joint operation to strike Houthi weapon launchers, radar sites and drones.
But the Houthis have continued conducting missile and drone attacks against commercial and military ships transiting the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
The Houthis are a group of Shia Islamists based in western Yemen which opposes US and Israeli influence in the Middle East.