The “vegetable and fruit” side of the economic crisis in Britain
The UK has suffered from the pan-European economic crisis much more than the EU and Eurozone countries. The attitude of the state elites and the politicians representing them, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has almost openly adopted an approach “privatization of profits – nationalization of losses”, in which the fruits of any successes go to big business and ordinary Britons have to pay for failures, has caused particular suffering. Such social Darwinism provoked a backlash from wage earners, who responded to the tactic of rolling back the norms and practices of the early twentieth century with mass protests and strikes. Under such conditions, the government was forced to make concessions and look for ways to save money for the social sector, including giving up on its favorite costly “green transition in the energy sector”. However, this could not radically change the situation, and the country’s consumer sector suffered in particular. At the beginning of 2023, this led to unimaginable shortages of certain products, including fruits and vegetables.
A sudden “vegetable crisis” indeed hit Britain in February. The country is now experiencing a shortage of fresh vegetables, especially tomatoes. Over the past 30 years, British agriculture has shrunk drastically. Whereas in 1990 the country grew 134,000 tons of tomatoes a year, in 2021 this quantity dropped to 68,000. The same has happened with cucumbers and other vegetables. As a result, wholesale prices for tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in the UK have quadrupled. Some kiosk owners don’t even sell tomatoes because they are too expensive. Italian restaurateurs in Britain have warned that because of the shortage of tomatoes and rising prices they are forced to abandon the use of these vegetables on menus. The Federation of Italian Chefs in Britain (F.I.C. UK) has notified a fourfold increase in the price of tomatoes, with £20 per box. In addition, the popular iceberg lettuce has become three times more expensive and does not cost 7 pounds anymore but rather 22 pounds. The chairman of the federation, Enzo Oliveri, even demanded that the government introduce a price ceiling on tomatoes.
The Daily Telegraph earlier explained the reasons for the shortage of tomatoes in Britain, confirming the crisis of the country’s agricultural industry and the critical and dangerous dependence on imports. There was a vegetable crop failure in the supplying countries. In Morocco tomatoes grew badly because of floods and low temperatures, in Spain the crops were negatively affected by the cold. Severe restrictions on exports from Morocco and an increase in the cost of fertilizers due to the Ukrainian crisis also played a role. As a result, some British supermarkets now sell vegetables in limited quantities. Now the situation is also exacerbated by the energy crisis. Because of the high cost of electricity, farmers have reduced greenhouse cultivation of vegetables, and in neighboring Holland, which usually supply a lot of vegetables to the UK, the state is simply bankrupting farmers in favor of the “green” agenda. That is why, one of the local reasons cited is that British farmers have begun to grow fewer vegetables in greenhouses because of rising energy prices. At the same time of the year, Britain continues to import products mainly from Spain and North Africa, and, as already written above, the current volume of these imports cannot cover the demand of the British.
Tim O’Malley, manager of Nationwide Produce, one of Britain’s largest fresh produce companies, warned his customers on the BBC that this could mean a “serious shortage” of domestic crops as well. Bad weather has particularly affected not only tomatoes, but also British vegetables like carrots, parsnips, cabbage and cauliflower. British supermarkets are imposing even stricter rationing, forcing customers to take no more than two or three packs of fresh vegetables. Prices of tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables have skyrocketed. A pack of tomatoes now costs £20, compared to £5 a year earlier. The price of canned tomatoes has also doubled. Italian restaurants in the country now have to exercise their culinary skills by making pizzas without tomatoes, and hope that sooner or later vegetables from the south of Europe will reach Britain. However, the deliveries through Europe are constantly “delayed”. Tomatoes and other vegetables are by no means the first such example of scarcity and Britons have been haunted by food crises for a year now. First, a shortage of white fish, which was bought from Russia, began to appear. Then egg prices also skyrocketed due to a reduction in the number of chickens caused by rising farming costs and now there are problems with vegetables as well. Food inflation in Britain is now at a record 13.3%. Real incomes are rapidly declining and the economy is slipping into recession. The UK is becoming one of the main victims of the current sanctions wars, being left out of the new world trade system.