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George Monbiot’s Latest Absurdity About Food Supplies

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This is, from one point of view, really quite glorious. George Monbiot has decided to worry about whether there will be lots of lovely fresh food in the month or two after Brexit. We import lots of our fresh food, d’ye see? And given the border chaos that is to be expected therefore the food isn’t going to get through. QED:

So what happens if our “highly resilient food supply chain” breaks after Brexit transition, on 1 January? It won’t, the government promised. “Our risk assessments show there will not be an overall shortage of food in the UK,” whether or not there’s a deal. But when I pressed it to show me these risk assessments, the plural turned out to be misleading. There’s just one assessment: a “reasonable worst-case scenario” for the UK’s borders.

This is grim enough. It suggests that the flow of freight through the ports could be reduced by between 20% and 40%, while trucks travelling in either direction could be delayed by up to two days: a big problem for fresh food.

OK. This amuses:

So far, so bad. But the UK’s border is only one link in the food supply chain, and it may not be the weakest. If the ports are congested and the flow of goods reduced, we will need stocks to bridge the gap. Food traders will have to build reserves, now and in December, to cover the likely shortfall in January.

So, err, how do we build stocks of perishables?

Is the problem confined to fresh food? With neither strategic food reserves nor a strategic risk assessment of warehouse capacity, I’m beginning to wonder.

Well, we could call them strategic stocks but we do then face that same problem. They’re perishables, by the very definition we’re using.

But there’s a much, much, greater joy in this worry. For Monbiot is one of those insisting that we shouldn’t be eating food from all those foreign fields. We should, instead, be eating what we can grow at home. Really at home too – get out there on that allotment, dig that lawn to produce brassicas. Beans flown in from Kenya are a bad thing, tomatoes from Spain, we shouldn’t be doing this trade at all. Not in something as important as food, we should and must be self-sufficient.

Something that does mean, in our climate, that January is just the first of the three months of the yearly Turnip Diet. As it was before we had international trade in food of course. So why is someone who insists that we shouldn’t be eating nice fruit and vegetables at this time of year bemoaning the risk that we might not be eating nice fruit and vegetables at this time of year?

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Quite obviously, the way the food supply industry has managed to keep supplying people despite the idiotic lockdowns makes it plain that a minor problem like a change in tariffs won’t even be noticed.

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