07 October 2021, The Tablet

Don't panic!

The ethical kitchen

Don't panic!


IT WAS always going to happen. The wheels have come off the transport system. Setting aside the shortage of fuel, there have been noticeable gaps on supermarket shelves since the summer, prompting some shoppers to wonder how they will do without, er, bottled water, to give one example. Cue horrified headlines in a country that has plenty of drinkable water in its taps …

But there are also gaping holes in the fresh produce aisles. What, no root ginger, a dearth of herbs, a strawberry drought? The Sun described furious consumers as “Hungry Brits”. And when items like beef mince are not available due to a shortage of HGV drivers, for those who rely on such inexpensive ingredients to feed their families it is more than just annoying. But this is not yet the equivalent of wartime shortages. It merely exposes the weakness of a centralised food supply system. Supermarket chains rely on a scheme whereby food is delivered by lorries to a depot in, say, the Midlands, then is redistributed to branches in the area – by more lorries. Which is why you can buy the same products in a Dorset Tesco as you can in a Tesco in Banbury.

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