Thinly spread

Britain suffers hummus price hike as India’s chickpea harvest fails

Popular Middle Eastern dish now a staple in UK homes, where a $140 million a year industry has grown by 50 percent in four years

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Hummus (Shutterstock)
Hummus (Shutterstock)

British hummus lovers are having to dip deep into their pockets to buy the popular Middle Eastern dish, with prices rising 12 percent since the start of 2018 because of a world chickpea shortage, the New York Times reported Thursday.

The price hike has been caused by a combination of rising UK demand for the spread and shortages resulting from yet another drought year in the world’s main chickpea producing country, India, with the result that India has had to supplement supplies by buying the legume from elsewhere.

The rise, reported by the trade magazine The Grocer and Brand View research consultants, is way above Britain’s inflation rate of 2.7%.

Hummus has become a staple in Britain since it was introduced in the 1990s and now constitutes an industry worth more than £100 million ($140 million) — up around 50% from four years ago, according to Kantar Worldpanel research.

It was revealed as one of the products most likely to occupy a Briton’s fridge in a 2013 survey of European food habits.

With a growing interest in healthy eating, worldwide demand for the nutritious spread is expected to continue rising.

Florentino Ornelas, mill assistant at Blue Mountain Seed in Walla Walla, Washington, unloads chickpeas for processing at the plant, August 28, 2013 (AP/Tri-City Herald, Paul T. Erickson, File)

US chickpea farmers saw a bumper harvest in 2016 and were expected to reap rewards in 2017 as well.

Scientists in Scotland and Ethiopia are meanwhile working on the development of a drought-resistant chickpea.

The hummus shortfall brings into stark relief the relationships between changing weather patterns, bad harvests and consumer shortages.

Britain imports nearly a third of its food and is therefore particularly sensitive to the effects of climate change elsewhere in the world.

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