Oil shortage: Why is there a shortage of cooking oil? What the supply issues mean for you

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused severe disruption to the global supply of cooking oil, leaving supermarkets across the country with no choice but to increase prices and ration products to their customers. The UK relies heavily on both Russia and Ukraine for its sunflower oil exports, though stocks are quickly running low as a result of the ongoing war between the Eastern European neighbours. Combined, Russia and Ukraine account for around 80 percent of the world’s sunflower oil supply, but what does it mean for you? What will happen when stocks run out?

Cooking oil prices have reached record highs since Vladimir Putin launched a war on Ukraine, but it’s not just extortionate costs which are worrying British retailers.

Data by NielsenIQ Scantrack showed that the cost of sunflower oil has risen to 17p, bringing this cooking staple up to £1.34 per litre.

While higher prices have made products unaffordable for struggling shoppers, a “shelf-shock” could see customers unable to purchase the item altogether in just a few weeks, according to major UK cooking oil bottler, Edible Oils.

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Why is there a shortage of cooking oil?

Disruption to exports out of Russia and Ukraine is thought to be the main reason for the cooking oil shortage.

The war has trapped millions of tonnes of sunflower oil earmarked for foreign buyers in Ukraine, causing a major supply shock.

Gary Lewis, of oil importer KTC Edibles, told the Guardian: “Overnight we had a situation where the market couldn’t offer because supplies weren’t coming from Ukraine into the EU and being processed, or from Ukraine to other countries around the world.”

In UK stores, sunflower oil makes up about one fifth of the market by value, and 44 percent by volume according to NeilsenIQ, who named the product as one of the “big four” vegetable oils.

What does the oil shortage mean for you?

Besides being a cupboard staple, cooking oil is an essential ingredient throughout the food industry and is used in everything from biscuits to ready meals.

Cost rises and shortages will have a significant knock-on effect for both the price and variation of items on offer in food outlets across the country.

Availability on supermarket shelves will also force many home cooks to re-think their usage, or choose alternative products in light of new rationing measures.

Several of the UK’s major supermarkets – including Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose and Iceland – have announced “temporary” rationing measures across the country.

As the war continues to cause mass destruction and displace millions of citizens across Ukraine, there’s still much uncertainty over the lasting effects on sunflower seed harvests and global supply.

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