Brexit, Covid, Ukraine: The United Kingdom will pay dearly for its food addiction

“Abandonment of agriculture is the policy and choice of industrialization adopted by Great Britain since 1847. It has never been challenged. The country has never achieved autonomy nor has it tried to do so. In 1950 there were 900,000 farmers. , today only 180,000,” explained Thierry Pouch, chief economist of the Permanent Assembly of the Agricultural Chambers (APCA), just before Brexit.

Then we were concerned about the great dislocation expected for a country that imports about 55% of its food volume, including 30% from the European Union. It was already suffering a 30 billion pounds a year shortfall in its food trade balance. The country imports more than 60% of fresh fruits and vegetables, consuming 45% of its dairy products. It relies on pork for half of its needs and a quarter on beef. Britain could rely on itself only in mutton, potatoes, fish and cereals (mainly making barley). And with more emphasis on organic farming, which is reducing locally produced quantities, 80% of the food depends on the outside, either directly or indirectly, through inputs or supplies.

Galloping inflation. In the past two years, with Brexit and then the Covid pandemic, the country has actually paid dearly for its dependence: empty shelves of fresh fruit and vegetables, agri-food chain shut down or slowed down for lack of ingredients, prices are increasing. In January, Britain’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimated that food prices rose 4.5% year-on-year as a result of the disruption and difficulty in finding labor artifacts.

According to several economists, inflation in April is likely to reach 7% in a year. And it’s not over. “Frankly, it is difficult to measure inflation for the foreseeable future. Increases in energy costs alone have an impact on agricultural production, food processing and logistics,” explains Quentin Mathieu, economics manager for agricultural cooperation.

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Not to mention that the country opted to rely less on its main suppliers, the Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Germany and France, to diversify its sources of supply after Brexit. He moved to the USA, Canada, South America, South Africa. “He will find himself importing at great expense what is already a higher cost internally, with transportation costs exploding, the economist continues. Not to mention, the food situation in the New World that is emerging, With increasing competition for access to food, it is not certain that it is a priority destination for new suppliers with which it was in the process of establishing established trade routes. . »

Some sections of British agriculture that were doing well may have suffered: “Little is known that the United Kingdom is the center of poultry farming in Europe, notes Quentin Matthews. But he controlled only a small part of the chain.” Does: Chickens come from Poland, are flattened with imported food, re-exported … However, all these terms have become significantly more expensive. »

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