BREXIT or Drought?

So Why have I entitled this article BREXIT or drought? You may ask!

With the increasing focus on the effects of Brexit we must not confuse the increasing food prices JUST on Brexit; despite the inevitable increases due to import tax prices are set to rise not because of Brexit but despite BREXIT due to the Summer drought.

This year saw the driest June on record comparable with 1976 with Southern England having just six per cent of the expected rainfall and Dorset (where I live) just 2mm, according to the Met Office. Having lived and worked in Lincolnshire and now Dorset I have many friends and family in agriculture for whom this summer has brought about sufficient hardship. Whilst 1976 did see more severe conditions than now, this has nonetheless been a really tough year for all types of farmer but particularly livestock farmers. The lack of rain has made it difficult to grow and harvest both grass used for animal feed and crops for human consumption and the summer drought-like conditions are now putting pressure on both diary and arable farmers.

It is inevitable therefore this winter, that we will see a hike in prices as supermarkets contend with a shorter supply of food such as bread, potatoes and onions.

‘As a broad generalisation, volumes of crops harvested will be down and for the majority of crops costs will be up. ‘(Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association)

The drought has affected the whole of Europe! This is not just a British problem.

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“Many German growers could go bankrupt if they suffer another crop failure, and too much rain in France is set to reduce output there. All combined, it’s shaping up to be Europe’s smallest grain harvest in six years. The damage to agriculture prompted Lithuania and Latvia to declare a national natural disaster and Germany was forced to import feed wheat from as far away as Romania.” (Bloomberg -July 2018)

The effect of Brexit? I think not, the effect of global warming? more likely.

In the period between March and July this year onion prices jumped up by 41 percent, while carrots rose by 80 percent and wheat for bread rose by a fifth.

So is it all doom & gloom? And what can we do?

  • Be realistic about the effects of Brexit
  • Support local growers and farmers by continuing to buy British
  • Be aware of the lack of produce availability in supermarkets and support local retailers
  • Buy what we need and don’t panic buy
  • Rethink food choices; returning to seasonal vegetables and creating menus from the produce which is readily available.
  • Ultimately, consider our green footprint

Whilst, we are not in ‘post war rationing Britain’ , we do need to rethink our obsession with a year round food supply not only from an environmental perspective but a commercial one. Perhaps if we altered our eating habits to reflect availability, behaving much as we did in 1976 (minus the flares and bad haircuts) the produce which is available would not be ploughed back into the soil, farmers would get a living wage and we could ‘do our bit’ for our local communities but additionally the wider global stage.

And there is some good news too. The extended sunny weather has produced a bumper yield of grapes and our vineyards will be producing more wine than ever this year. So whatever happens with Brexit, we can be assured that we will at least be able to drink a few glasses of wine in 2019. Cause enough to smile and embrace that good old British resolve and make the best of every situation.