N. Zealand PM rationing as quakes hit Marmite supply

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key complained his personal supplies of Marmite were dwindling Tuesday, amid a nationwide shortage of the salty spread caused by the Christchurch earthquakes.

In a culinary crisis that has been dubbed "Marmageddon", the country's only Marmite factory in Christchurch closed in November due to earthquake damage and will not resume production of the thick, black savoury concoction until July.

Key said the shortage was already impacting on the prime ministerial breakfast.

"I'm going to have to go thin I'm afraid. I have a very small amount in my office and once that runs out I'm obviously aware that supplies are very short," he told TV3 on Tuesday.

However, in a move unlikely to endear him to New Zealand purists, he revealed he was also a fan of Marmite's Australian rival Vegemite.

"I've got to be honest I can eat Vegemite as well. I'm a consumer that can move between brands, I'm ashamed to say it," he said.

Food company Sanitarium has urged consumers to make the most of existing Marmite supplies by spreading it thinly on their breakfast toast or rationing to once a day.

"With toast it's a little bit warmer so it spreads easier and it goes a little bit further," general manager Pierre van Heerden told public radio on Monday.

Van Heerden revealed Marmite had already sold out in some parts of the country and appealed for shoppers not to clear remaining stocks for their own hoards.

"People need to be considerate of their fellow Kiwis," he said.

"There's no need to panic or freak out that Marmite isn't going to be available in the longer term, this is a short-term hiccup because of the earthquakes."

Online prediction website ipredict.co.nz was forecasting an 83 percent chance Marmite would be rationed in New Zealand supermarkets Tuesday, while one seller on auction website trademe.co.nz was offering jars at up to NZ$60 ($50). The New Zealand spread tastes slightly different to Vegemite and the British version of Marmite, which has long been marketed with the line "you either love it or hate it".

Fans of each variation insist that theirs is the best, although the appeal often escapes those who have not grown up eating them.

Some critics liken such spreads, based on brewer's yeast extract, to axle grease laced with salt.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton almost caused a diplomatic incident on a 2010 visit to Australia when she said: "I've never understood why you would ruin a perfectly good slice of bread with Vegemite."

ns/jms

 

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