There’s been a spate of comments about how the current Mail obsession with the vegetable shortage in the UK is a bit of a First World problem. Well, yes and no.
Firstly we had the dreadful courgette drought a couple of weeks ago. All around Hoxton there was the deafening clatter of spiralizers hitting the bin. Now there’s a dearth of iceberg lettuces. Such is the scale of the problem, supermarkets are rationing customers to only two or three per purchase.
This raises the interesting question of just who the hell can eat three lettuces before the last two have gone pink and soggy and are chucked in the bin along with the spiralizers? Nobody eats that much lettuce, particularly in the middle of winter. Buy one, finish that off, buy another, job done, catastrophe averted. Nobody needs three lettuces at a time unless they’re catering for something such as a wedding reception. Even then three icebergs go a long way. That’s just panic buying, like the 20 loaves of bread at Christmas when the shops are only closed for one or two days.
This is the more serious aspect of it. We’ve all got so used to the idea of everything being available all year round that we feel deprived when we can’t buy what we want, when we want it. Way back when, strawberries in the UK were in the shops in late June/early July only. Now, thanks to Ted Moult and his polytunnels, we can grow them up to the end of October. Then we ship them in by air from South America.
We ship loads of, for example, green beans from Kenya. That’s a lot of airmiles. On the other hand, taking a pseudoethical stance and boycotting them threatens the livelihoods of a lot of farmers and their families. Also, if you do that, better stop eating bananas, citrus fruits, pineapples, you name it. You’ll struggle a bit, since we import 90% of our fruit, and 50% of our vegetables, but you’ll just have to get used to it.
The shortages have been caused by severe weather in Spain, where Murcia is pretty much all one big greenhouse; you can see that from orbit it’s so huge. Severe drought in the summer caned the crap out of productivity, then frost and snowfalls (virtually unheard of), then torrential rains, made growing conditions rubbish.
Now as it happens, global warming has always been predicted to affect southern Europe markedly. You may just want to contact your MP about Goody Two Shoes and her Toff mates reducing subsidies for renewables while offering tax breaks to oil companies and fracking outfits.
PS The gag about lettuces going a long way? They really do. We’re shipping them in from the US now.