12 May 2022, The Tablet

The sadness of the sunflowers that symbolise a way of life in ruins

The sadness of the sunflowers that symbolise a way of life in ruins

It is empty supermarket shelf season again, though this time panic buyers have swept the aisles for sunflower oil. Some supermarkets are rationing the amount shoppers can buy, but most have simply run out. It is a consequence of the war in Europe. About 75 per cent of the world’s supply of sunflower oil comes from Ukraine and Russia; the global food distribution system works on a finely tuned “no store” system, and if the war continues it will not be long before the stock is gone.

If the supply of sunflower oil runs out, we will have to find alternatives or live without. The real victims of the situation are the people of Ukraine, custodians of “Europe’s breadbasket”, who are seeing a vital source of income being destroyed. Those selfish panic buyers must hold back. Sunflower oil’s main use is in cooking; it is viewed as a (slightly) healthier means to deep-fry food. The alternative, similarly priced, oil is rapeseed oil; sold as “vegetable” oil, it is higher in unhealthy “trans fats” and has a less pleasant flavour. Shopping anxiety has wiped the shelves clean of this ingredient too, for the present.

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