Vegetable Rationing Hits The UK: A Sign Of Things To Come?

broccoli-498600_960_720By Lizzie Bennett

This week has seen the veggies stocked by UK supermarkets and even specialist green grocery shops dwindle.

It has also provided some valuable lessons for those of us with a prepper mindset.

Bad weather in across Europe has hit hard leaving European farmers, and Spanish farmers in particular, with nothing to export, and what they do have is going to customers in their home countries – I get that look after your own people first.

My question is, why in a country that has so much available land to grow on is the UK importing so much in the first place?

So, not getting the answers from either the news or the shops who are running out of veg I called a few farms and asked the question.

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It seems the problem is three-fold. Firstly the size of the farms in the UK often means they would almost have to exclusively grow one type of crop per season in order to even approach the amounts that a supermarket and that is one supermarket, not a chain of supermarkets, would need to purchase to satisfy their customers and many UK farms just aren’t big enough to do that. Most have no hope at all of growing enough to satisfy the needs of a national supermarket chain.

Second, many crops are labor intensive at harvest time and this puts up the cost to the farmer if they could get the labor in the first place.

Thirdly there’s no money in it. Farmers have to be very well placed with a national chain – which involves a large amount of land and a decent sized workforce particularly at harvest to make a profit. Some European countries such as Spain still embrace farming as a way of life and seasonal workers are cheap and not hard to find so the costs are kept down. Larger farms or co-operatives where farmers band together to bid for contracts with national to international supermarkets are much more commonplace in Europe than they are in the UK.

So, with lettuce, broccoli, courgettes, aubergines, cucumbers and tomatoes becoming rarer on the supermarket shelves we have to wonder what the knock-on effect will be. Some sources are already saying that winter cropping veggies such as swede (rutabega), turnips, parsnips and even sprouts will be affected later in the year as the waterlogged and frozen fields of Europe can’t be planted and those that have already been planted won’t be producing much of a crop.

For many this is a minor inconvenience, half the country eats nowhere near enough veg, but it gives them something to moan about at the check out. For me things are a little different.

  • I live literally on the coast…a few hundred yards from open ocean and the salt air and harsh winds limit what will grow here.
  • Greenhouses don’t last long and insurance companies won’t pay for wind damage to them any more.
  • Poly tunnels blow away so no point buying them in the first place.
  • I have to consider if it’s viable cost wise to plant a veggie garden this year as I will be out of the country for four months and won’t be here to tend it during those times.
  • Container growing makes more sense as I limit loses when I’m away and the can be sheltered from the wind.

But the biggie for me is that I rely on veggies, particularly the above ground ones to provide me with the small amounts of carbohydrates I eat.

I discovered completely by accident last year that carbohydrates trigger my arthritis pain. So out went processed carbs. Within days I saw a massive improvement. Having a glimpse of what a pain-free life might be like out went potatoes and sweet potatoes, swede and turnips except small amounts once a week with a full roast dinner on a Sunday.

It took a bit of getting used to after over fifty years of cradle to grave carb munching mentality but oh was it ever worth it…massive weight loss which of course also takes pressure off my joints, no more psoriasis, way more energy and none of that sluggish over-stuffed feeling you get after eating.

It suits me but it does make me reliant on a steady and readily available supply of above ground vegetables…which right now is not assured.

So what’s the answer?

For me it’s more containers so that I can supplement the meager supplies I can get in the shops. I will eat whatever above ground stuff I grow or can buy and if it got really bad a few more root vegetables but spread out across the week so my body takes small hits rather than one big one.

What does concern me is that in a real crisis I would need to be as fit as possible and this tells me the carbs would remain a very small part of my diet. The project for this year is logging how much fresh produce I actually eat and making plans of how to grow enough for my needs as well as my daughter’s…who thankfully eats a ton of salad for no other reason than she likes it. In a crisis she would quite happy switch to whatever other veggies and fruit are available because they have no effect on her at all.

Using intensive sowing methods, somewhat similar to square foot gardening producing tons of sweet potatoes, regular potatoes carrots and turnips isn’t a problem, they all do well in containers and I plant several three weeks apart so we have a continual supply. They are also far less prone to damage than the above ground stuff.

Will the moaners at the checkout get down and dirty in the garden to grow their own? No, not a chance. They have become so used to going to the store and buying whatever they need they have lost the knowledge and skills that they would need if this became a long term problem.

Am I concerned about this?

No. I used to be but now I don’t spread the word nearly so much. My container garden is invisible from every angle unless you are actually standing facing it and to do that you would need to be standing at the side of my home…and to do that you have gotten through two high locked gates and past a small but very noisy dog and past me – not an easy option that last one!

For obvious reasons that’s as far as I go in discussing the food security methods that I have in place here. Needless to say it’s in hand as far as it can be for any of us.

Here are a few more articles relating to dietary health and gardening. I hope you find them interesting.

Take care,


You can read more from Lizzie Bennett at her site Underground Medic, where this article first appeared.

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