Now that we’re officially in meteorological Spring, here at AmoChef, we’re dreaming of longer evenings, daffodils and finally putting the woolly gloves away for another (hopefully) long, hot summer.
But March 2019 also means something else, something far less predictable than even the British summer – yep, the word on everyone’s lips – Brexit. We’re a matter of weeks away and it seems that still no one really understands what kind of place Britain will be when we all wake up on the morning after we leave.
But with reports of people stockpiling food, what does Brexit mean for the future of our food?
Since we don’t even have a deal yet, this is a difficult question to answer. We could be facing a no deal Brexit, a soft Brexit or a hard Brexit, and each one means something different to the future of what we see on our plates.
Will we still be able to enjoy French champagne, Spanish chorizo and fresh Italian herbs?
Since it’s looking increasingly likely that we’ll leave the EU with no deal, and that there are no rigid plans in place to say what will happen to our food in a soft or hard Brexit, it’s ‘easier’ to look at what will happen in a no deal situation.
A No Deal Brexit and Food Choices
According to the BBC, a no deal Brexit could result in “gridlock at UK borders” whilst everyone works out what to do. This is particularly worrying because the UK only currently produces around 60% of the food we consume. Three quarters of the remaining 40% of food that we import comes directly from our European cousins (the other quarter from further afield such as Africa and the US).
This is because we rely on ‘just in time’ food supply chains, supplying the fresh food we eat, just in time for when we need it. In other words, we don’t have much food in reserve, for a rainy day so to speak. Instead, we have the food we need today, here ready to eat. The food we need tomorrow, will be arriving at the ports of Dover in huge contingents of lorries tonight and so on.
To give you an idea of the scale of the fresh food currently arriving on our shores, more than 50,000 tonnes of food from the EU arrives every single day.
If food starts getting delayed at our borders, it will either become inedible, or have a shorter shelf life when it does reach us. Both of which will mean disrupted supply chains, and could mean shops putting up their prices to us.
Going Further Afield?
So, will this mean that supermarkets and suppliers begin to look elsewhere? Probably. But with stories surrounding American chlorinated chicken and beef pumped with hormones, this is a worrying prospect. (Although the US envoy to the UK has very recently claimed these to be myths.)
On the other hand, it could mean that we get even more choice. We just need to make sure that manufacturers are transparent about what we’re eating.
Or Maybe Looking Closer to Home?
Perhaps though, things don’t have to look so worrying. If we were to become more self-sufficient by growing more food here ourselves, we’d waste less and create fewer carbon emissions from food transport.
But since we already produce 60% of our food, there must be reasons why we don’t produce more. And those reasons are space and infrastructure. We’re already struggling for housing space, so giving over more land to agriculture and manufacture could prove tricky. And besides, creating new farms and factories takes time, and time is running out.
What if this pressure for more homegrown food also creates problems with poor working conditions for farmers, growers, pickers and producers? And worse living conditions for the animals involved?
Watching and Waiting
Downing Street have said all along that when it comes to our food, they won’t accept lower standards.
So we wait and see. We’re sorry that we can’t give you a definitive answer on the effects of Brexit on UK food. If we could then we’d probably be hounded for our crystal ball.
But whatever side you’re on – Europhile or Europhobe, one thing is for sure – AmoChef is keeping a close eye on things and we absolutely promise that we’ll never scrimp on quality – our chefs use the highest quality ingredients and always will, wherever in the world they’ve come from!