Will we or won’t we leave the EU with no deal? We can hope that we won’t, and we can deny the possibility but the fact is, at this stage, we still have no idea.
I wrote about this back in January and reactions (unsurprisingly) were mixed. I confess here and now – my husband thinks that my stockpiling strategy is insane; he is wholly convinced that it is unnecessary. My daughter, whilst less vociferous in her condemnation, raises a single eyebrow (a feat I have never yet been able to achieve) and reminds me of the Millenium Box. Approaching 1st January 2000, I heeded warnings of possible food shortages (this time due to failing computer systems). Apparently (Daughter’s recollection is clearer than mine on this), the family were warned on pain of death, the dire consequences that would befall them should they dip into my carefully hoarded stores. I willingly hold up my hands – I was wrong. And I wholeheartedly hope that I am wrong once again. Because if I am not, then a great many people are going to suffer: families that cannot afford to stockpile, those who can but may not have the room to store or freeze very much, and those who simply do not grasp, what I consider to be, the very real threat of shortages.
The UK currently grows only around 60% of the food we eat. The EU supplies 40% of our fresh fruit and veg and something like 75% of all our packaged foods. It’s fine to think that if we can’t get X we’ll eat Y, but the fact is, this will put additional pressure on those goods that we do produce ourselves, and with everyone vying to get hold of the same items, this will exacerbate the problem of shortages. Experts say that it would be possible for the UK to produce all the food we need, but that our eating habits, and farming practices would have to change significantly. The latter couldn’t happen overnight and estimates are that such changes would take several years to the implement. A further concern is a lack of land workers. Already farmers find it nigh impossible to find UK nationals to pick fruit (currently as few as one person per thousand pickers) and growing greater quantities will require even more people to do it, whilst in the face of uncertainty, increasing numbers of Eastern European workers are returning to their home countries.
Of course the EU will not want to lose Britain as a customer, and in the longer term I’m sure we will find a resolution but right now it feels to me that they want to ‘teach us a lesson’. I’m not suggesting that we need to hoard months and months worth of foodstuffs, but I’m taking my lead from the major supermarkets, most of which have been steadily stockpiling for the past year. Does this make me a doom monger? Or am I perhaps the sensible one among most of my friends who, I’ll admit, seem pretty unconcerned by the prospect of shortages? No doubt the Government will assure us that all will be OK, but seriously, who’d put their trust in a body which has done so little to engender it?
Likely, we can source foods from elsewhere, but this could well mean being forced to accept lower standards – chlorination, irradiation and inferior quality produce, whilst increasing imports from our non-EU suppliers will mean rising prices due to the higher costs of transportation. It’s true that we already have trade agreements with other countries, but will they have the capacity to provide us with an increased volume of goods? In time, no doubt, but in the immediate aftermath of Brexit – who knows? Trade agreements with yet other countries will not be set up overnight.
In addition to household essentials such as toilet rolls and cleaning materials (though I guess housework is the last thing on the mind of anyone who is wondering where their next meal will come from), I’ve been building up food stores for some time now. Mindful of use-by dates on certain products, I do my normal weekly shopping and replace with the newer purchases. Of course, I have many of these items in my general cupboards which are always pretty full , but my Brexit stores are separate.
I’ve attempted to balance my extra stores with protein (pulses and fish):
Fruit, veg and grains, oils, vinegars, spreads, gravy powder, coffee and baking ingredients:
I started by prioritising and have an ongoing list of other items that still need to be bought. Anyone who knows me from my working life would ask, “Did you do a spreadsheet?” My penchant for these was well known (I even used it as a planning strategy when completing university assignments) , and my husband will confirm that I haven’t changed. So, yes, I did! I eased up after the March deadline passed (seduced into thinking that a ‘no-deal’ was less of a threat), and started to use up some of the stores, but as Mrs May’s proposals were repeatedly rejected, I changed my mind.
“Most of our fresh salads, broccoli, tomatoes, avocados, pepper fruits, cauliflower, cabbage, etc., are imported from the EU. The same applies to most of the fresh fruit we consume. Fresh fruit and vegetables are likely to take a hike in price post–Brexit and face restricted availability. Other EU imports include olive oil, anchovies, pasta, rice and tomato paste. Proteins include canned and dried kidney beans, butter beans, black beans, chickpeas and tinned fish like herrings, sardines and tuna. Add to that tinned olives, pickled capers and jarred peppers and a whole range of vegetarian foods like tofu and soya milk. Honey is also imported from the EU.” (www.survival expert)
So laugh if you will. I hope and pray that I’m overreacting and if I am, I’ll laugh with you. It really doesn’t matter because my Brexit store will be full of stuff we eat anyway, so my shopping bill will be lower for a while, and any excess can go to the local food bank.
Interested in reading more?
Link to my earlier post : Are you stockpiling?