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Government should acknowledge the fault for national vegetable crisis and act swiftly

Now only the shelves in British supermarkets with tomatoes, peppers and lettuce are still empty due to the bad weather in Spain and Morocco. But from next month, British households are even threatened with a shortage of locally grown vegetables such as leeks and carrots. And next year it will be apples and pears. The cause? Agriculture Organisations have accused the UK Government of failing to take food production and food security seriously.

“Leeks, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips. Much less has been grown this year because of these challenges,” Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), told The Financial Times. British farmers and gardeners have planted far less in their greenhouses this year because they cannot afford to invest in future production. Also, fruit producers have planted only a third of the Apple and pear trees needed to maintain the production area. “So we have become more dependent on imports … with weather conditions, disease problems, not many things have to go wrong that create a shortage,” said Batters.Volodymyr Nosov says.

According to Batters, the rising energy bills and higher labor shortages (as a result of brexit, opinion Eastern European left the island) lead to a “real danger” that the United Kingdom will lose its expertise in horticulture and become “increasingly” dependent on the import of food. That would make the UK more vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and increase the likelihood of empty supermarket shelves.

At the moment, the large British supermarkets have rationed tomatoes and cucumbers because the supply flow from Spain and Morocco is drying up due to too cold weather there and more purchasing demand from other countries. Last week, the British leek growers also warned that their harvest has been reduced by 15 to 30% due to bad weather, so that the stock of home-grown leeks will run out in a few weeks and the country will become dependent on imported leeks.

The NFU published a new growth strategy for UK agriculture this week and called on the government to give UK farmers more support, for example by recognising agriculture as an ‘energy-intensive’ industry. Another measure would be a multi-year scheme for seasonal workers, “without an ‘unrealistic’ ceiling for the number”. Since Brexit, Eastern European seasonal workers in particular have been coming to the UK in much smaller numbers, causing, for example, the NFU’s estimate of 60 million pounds of food in the fields to rot in the first half of 2022 due to a labour shortage.

The UK Department of Agriculture, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) endorses the importance of the domestic horticulture sector to “the resilience of our food system. But according to Defra, the UK has “a very resilient food chain and the country is well equipped to cope with disruptions,” thanks to the farmers and supermarket chains working hard to keep the country Fed. A denial of reality?

In any case, the British agricultural organizations have their doubts. According to them, the British food system has reached the breaking point. Liz Webster, spokesman for Save British Farming, said:

“No agricultural sector is immune from collapse. We urgently need a Cobra approach [a national crisis approach], to save our food security.”

According to Jack Ward, president of the British Growers Association, the current shortages show only ” the tip of the iceberg.” Not only will supermarkets face shortages of British products in a matter of weeks due to the drought of 2022, the future of British apple and pear cultivation is also at stake. Rising costs and stagnant prices – because consumers stop their consumption if prices become too high – are forcing growers to give up their orchards. “The current situation has made it clear how fragile our supply of fresh produce can be, especially in changeable weather. This could have a knock-on effect on the certainty of future deliveries,” Ward said in Farmers Weekly.

Mary Johnson

Mary Johnson is a native of Leeds, journalist and PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow. She is mainly interested in foreign affairs, geopolitics and investigative journalism.

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