There is a shortage of salad vegetables in the UK at the moment. Given it is February I suspect my Grandmother would not have been particularly surprised by this. But a modern, environmentally conscious, and wealthy population expect to get everything, all the time.
The problem is that the consumer expects it to be cheap. And this is why we have run into trouble. Before Christmas the big producers (think the Lea Valley Association which produces cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, and lettuce in 3,450 acres of glasshouses) had discussions with the supermarkets. The discussion went something like this.
Food producer. “We need to plant now to harvest in February. If we plant now we will need to use £x (where x is a ridiculously large number) worth of gas to produce the crop. Thus the crop will cost £y.”
Supermarket. “Far too expensive, cut the price or we’ll just buy from abroad. We will pay £y-3.”
Food producer. “We lose money at that. We’ll just plant in February then and you go and buy from abroad.”
Note this discussion wasn’t just held in the UK, the Dutch growers had a similar discussion and came to a similar conclusion. Why plant food to lose money and go bust? So in northern Europe, glasshouses were not planted.
Now let us turn to Spain and Morocco. Here they do not need heated greenhouses. Indeed the out of season salad veg of the enlightened is produced in Almeria in Spain without heat. Just enough plastic greenhouses to be visible from space
Except that this winter, Spain and Morocco did need heat. They have had weeks of heavy rain and a cold spell. So their crops just haven’t grown. Isn’t nature wonderful?
So this is the world we have now. We have food inflation. In the UK we had food inflation of 16.9% in the 12 months to December 2022. Lest anybody feels that it’s something to lay at the door of Brexit, the Germans had 18.9% food inflation over the same period.
But in reality, food has been cheap for far too long. If you look at the graph below, you’ll see on other spike. That’s 2008 where we had ‘a weather event’ and there was a major shortage of grain. That’s when we had the Arab Spring because so many countries revolted at the price of bread.
And now we had another ‘weather event’. Add that to a ‘political event’ with tanks rolling into the Ukraine and the current price of food is easily explained.
So in conclusion there are a number of questions you want to ask.
Firstly are you happy for major retailers to decide UK agricultural policy. Because frankly they have far more say over what is and isn’t grown in this country that government. Government environmental schemes consist of paying relatively derisory sums which might or might not have an impact, depending on how many farmers reckon they can afford to take part in the schemes. Supermarkets effectively decide which crops we grow in this country.
Secondly are you happy with the idea that we can do away with home production and just import from abroad if it produces a better margin for retailers?
Thirdly, why do you expect to eat salad in February anyway?
Just remember where it comes from.
There again, what do I know? Speak to the experts.
Tagged: Almeria, gas prices, major retailers, salad
Sorry to be obtuse, but the first I knew of the salad shortage was when it appeared on yesterday’s news… but then, I grew up on a farm and *wouldn’t* expect to eat salad in February.
Since I had my gall bladder out I cannot digest lettuce, cucumber and raw onion so I tend to miss these things as well 🙂
But yes, why do people expect to eat them at this time of year?
Reblogged this on Janet's Thread 2 and commented:
Food for thought.
Glad you found it interesting
Still have carrots, turnips, beetroot, celeriac and of course potatoes in the pivnica (root cellar) Who needs salad 🙂
No Brussels Sprouts Eddy 🙂
Swapped for a bucket of sauerkraut…..makes a good salad mixed with some pumpkin oil and fresh cabbage, boiled potatoes, pumpkin and carraway seeds 🙂
Sounds good 🙂
When we were in charge of ALL our food, we bought and ate what was reasonably priced at the grocery store – and expected to pay higher prices for fruits and vegetables which were not in season. Now the seasons are affected by how far away the fruits and vegetables are grown from where we live. Our pears in December might come from Chile.
I don’t have the energy for them, but there are often Farmer’s Markets around here, and they sell what grows locally at each time of year. It can work, if they sell in small enough quantities for one or two people.
I’ve been spoiled for four years by California strawberries being available EVERY day of the year – I’ve grown very fond of them. But if they weren’t there, we’d just not buy strawberries.
Different parts of the world have different growing seasons, and yes, for California, water is more important than season. The problem comes when people try and eat a Californian diet, or an Italian diet, in England 🙂
Way back in the eighties (as I have been around for a while 😉) I was at a training get-together in the depths of the Home Counties. Over lunch, the cost of flying French beans in from Kenya cropped up (pun intended). I innocently suggested we try eating seasonally and locally and was almost shouted down.
It warps the agriculture of countries like Kenya where international farming businesses buy up land to grow cash crops for supermarkets. Supermarkets don’t want to have to deal with a hundred thousand peasant farmers
Absolutely, it has an impact at grass roots level. Everything set for convenience and mass food production. It’s why wheat was grown en masse in the first place. This post is about fruit and veg and the decision made by UK supermarkets. The supermarkets do deals with suppliers, the demand grows, the suppliers tool up and expand and then the supermarkets screw them on new price negotiations. The UK growers absolutely made the right decision and also, did right by sticking to it. As purchasers we can make a difference and need to see the bigger picture.
There is a ‘joke’ “What is the difference between a supermarket buyer and a terrorist?”
“You can negotiate with a terrorist.”
I think that the major retailers are running out of road, too many variables are coming into play and they cannot crush all of them
Running out of road…great expression and yes, I agree.
Ultimately the purchasers decide what gets produced. Not sure why this would be any different from farmers to textile manufacturers. Unless you do something similar to what was done for key industrial capability for arms production in the past and designate agriculture a strategic capability.
Can someone though explain why there are fruit and vegetable shortages in the UK but this doesn’t appear to be the case elsewhere in Europe?
Your last point was covered in Farming today yesterday morning. Supermarkets on the continent worked on the principle that their consumers valued food and would thus pay a bit extra to cover the increased cost. UK supermarkets (whether dealing with UK or European growers) had already decided UK consumers wouldn’t accept the extra cost.
Which is why UK consumers are the ones facing rationing. They are getting what they pay for 😦
The difference between farmers and textile manufacturers is that if textile output falls by 10% people don’t riot and overthrow governments 😉
Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
More from ‘You Know Who!
yep channelling his inner curmudgeon 🙂
I used to eat something called miner’s leaves … purslaine or something. It grows all winter and it’s reminiscent of a less spicy rocket or watercress. I can no longer source it but if I knew what it was I’d grow a craptonne of this stuff. It’s a winter green so it grows in the deepest darkest British winter when little else does. Then there’s kale and cabbage and the broccoli plants I forgot to pull up last year which have now broccled extensively, there’s spinach … the only thing I’m missing a little is tomatoes, although I have a detectorist friend who is usually harvesting bush cherry tomatoes from pots in his conservatory about this time of year … I am always one for self sufficiency, although maybe, because the British Isles is just that, Islands, I am more conscious as to the consequences if the food runs out …
Exactly, You can even grow lettuce on a window box on the inside of the window 🙂
Although, for some strange reason, in my kitchen, I also grow a lot of white fly which means that I have to wash it all quite thoroughly. 🤣🤣
into each life a little rain must fall 🙂
Flaw in the argument. I just walked into a Dutch supermarket this morning and it is full of salad vegetables.
I covered this in the reply I gave to Doug “Your last point was covered in Farming today yesterday morning. Supermarkets on the continent worked on the principle that their consumers valued food and would thus pay a bit extra to cover the increased cost. UK supermarkets (whether dealing with UK or European growers) had already decided UK consumers wouldn’t accept the extra cost.
Which is why UK consumers are the ones facing rationing. They are getting what they pay for,”