First the truck drivers were missing, then the eggs, now the tomatoes. While in Germany there was only a temporary shortage of pasta or toilet paper during the pandemic, the shortage economy in Great Britain is no longer a rarity. Signs reading "Three items per customer" have recently been emblazoned on many vegetable shelves in British supermarkets. Experts are already speculating about what could be scarce next.
What was missing
In autumn 2021, the petrol stations were temporarily without petrol. A year later, eggs and Christmas turkeys were running out. In addition, there is a shortage of workers everywhere, especially in service jobs and gastronomy. So now the vegetables are also missing - and not for the first time. After the Brexit rules came into force for the first time, there were also gaps on the shelves.
Why is that
The reasons for the shortage are manifold: There was a shortage of petrol at the time, mainly because after Brexit and the pandemic, there weren’t enough truck drivers to drive the fuel from A to B. In eggs and turkeys, massive outbreaks of bird flu have been responsible for killing many animals. When it comes to vegetables, the British have to wait in line because the harvest was lower than usual due to drought or the weather.
"Brexit is an amplifier," says the head of the German-British Chamber of Industry and Commerce (AHK) in London, Ulrich Hoppe, in an interview with the German Press Agency. It has become more difficult and expensive to export to the UK. When demand outstrips supply, other countries come first. As far as the shortage of skilled workers is concerned, the hurdles for foreign workers have become higher due to visa rules.
What might be missing next
If you ask insiders what could be tight next, several assumptions come up. The trade association British Retail Consortium considers bottlenecks in olive oil to be possible due to poor harvests in the growing regions - just like the British-German economist Andrew Lee, who teaches at the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University and also puts imported cheese on the list of possible endangered goods .
If extreme weather events are expected to increase, any shock in the supply chains will hit Great Britain harder than EU countries, Lee said in an interview with the dpa. "Britain can then sell more cheddar, but whether that can make up for the lack of EU cheese imports is questionable - and whether customers only want to eat British cheese is a completely different question."
The National Farmers Union also expects that the shortages in tomatoes and cucumbers will remain, as the harvest of the local varieties has become increasingly thin over the years. The farmers assume that the 2022 season will turn out to be the one with the lowest yield for tomatoes and cucumbers since records began almost 40 years ago after the final count. The trend is similar for pears and peppers. "Food safety in Britain is over. The government needs to take this seriously," said the federation's vice-president, David Exwood.
Why shouldn't that change in the first place?
There are several reasons for this - one of them is Brexit. Expert Hoppe from the Chamber of Foreign Trade estimates that Great Britain is always about 10 to 15 percent more affected than EU countries. "Brexit has increased the risk of supply chains breaking up," he says. So far, the British government has shunned the idea of at least rejoining the EU single market one day. In addition, droughts and other extreme weather events, aggravated by climate change, mean that farmers have serious problems with their harvests more often.
Germany will not be entirely spared either
Germany is not spared from the effects of climate change and global disruptions to supply chains - for example as a result of sanctions or conflicts. Even when long-distance drivers were rare in Great Britain, industry associations pointed out that tens of thousands of workers were also missing in Germany and that the shortage would only increase. Due to the additional hurdles in Great Britain, it is often only possible to see under the magnifying glass in which areas there could later be problems elsewhere.