The news for the past few weeks has been a little worrying (when is it not?), in the sense that although Brexit is only 7 months away, no one seems to have the foggiest what will happen when we leave the EU. All kinds of industries are predicting chaos. People in the government have said that the government is making plans to stockpile food, and the public don’t need to worry. However, with ‘just in time’ food supply lines that leave us nine meals away from anarchy, perhaps a little concern is in order. We’ve recently lived through a hummus shortage (due to production issues), a crumpet/fizzy drinks shortage (ditto) and salad shortages (weather issues), and that’s just the ones I (a) noticed and (b) can remember.
Dominic Raab: “The idea that we only get food from one continent is not appropriate.”
Well, not quite. pic.twitter.com/zZR3orCkn6
— Marcus Leroux (@marcusleroux) 24 July 2018
Nearly a third of our food comes from the EU, and if we were to rely on homegrown food supplies, the National Farmers Union says they would run out in August. It’s August now – do you fancy surviving on emergency rations until the new year? Me either. Apparently the government has neither the cash reserves, nor the storage space, to stockpile food, and it’s suggested that concerned citizens might like to put together their own stash. (The Swedish version sounds much tastier than the Swiss one, IMHO.)
Now, that’s the doomsday scenario and this may all turn itself around and turn storm in a tea cup (people compare Brexit to Y2K, but the reason the millennium bug didn’t cause chaos was because lots of people spent years fixing it). On the other hand, people fortunate enough to have spare cash and a bit of storage space might like to stock up on long-lived supplies that they use regularly, just to tide them over any awkward transition period. I suspect that what will happen is that foods from the EU will be more expensive and/or in short supply as things sort themselves out. I’m thinking it might be nice to have a little cache of rice, flour, porridge oats, tea and olive oil on hand.
The other obvious thing to do, if you have a garden, is to plan to grow some of your own food next year. There’s a slight problem with this thought, since exit day is scheduled for the end of March 2019, which is at the beginning of the notorious ‘hungry gap’, when a conventional veggie patch is gearing up for the season and producing very little. A lot of the things that are harvested in April need to be in the ground by now, although not all of them, so I can make some suggestions in due course.
There’s another slight fly in the ointment, which is that a lot of our seeds come from the EU*, too. Which is why I’m planning next year’s garden now, and checking through my seed box to see what I have and what I need, so that I can get everything ordered nice and early. Ryan and I are going to have a ‘back to basics’ garden next year, with the idea being that it provides us with as many of our favourites/staples as possible. I know that many kitchen gardens are already planted along those lines, but mine has always been a bit more experimental!
My next few blog posts are likely to be an expansion of this topic, as I ponder my options. Are you planning a similar garden, or are you convinced that everything will be OK?
[*We have some brilliant UK-based suppliers, including Real Seeds and the Heritage Seed Library – if you know of more then add them in the comments. I’m wondering whether unused allotment plots could be turned into community seed gardens, which could be a wonderful way of keeping gardeners supplied. Seed swaps are also awesome :)]
[If you’re worried about Brexit (or other upheavals) and thinking about growing some of your own food this year, check out my new zine – Keep Calm and Grow Food – which is available via Etsy.]