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A couple of veg scheme members have asked this question recently, so we’ll do our best to answer it.
It’s tempting to quote a mushroom importer interviewed for the BBC’s Food Programme last week, who said: “No one knows anything.”
It’s true that we can’t predict exactly what might happen, though a no-deal Brexit would certainly cause disruption and delays to imports of fresh food from Europe.
We buy as much of our produce as possible from our core group of farmers within the UK, so that should put us in a better position than many retailers.
But the date set for Brexit couldn’t come at a worse time for fresh fruit and veg. The end of March is the start of the Hungry Gap – the time of year when the UK’s stored veg has run out and the new-season veg has barely started to grow. This is the time of year when we import the most food for the bags – aubergines, peppers and oranges from Spain, kiwis and courgettes from Italy.
Whatever happens, we plan for the veg scheme to continue in the way we do now as much as we can. There may be changes to the availability or prices of produce (this happens seasonally anyway with fruit and veg), but we will do our best to minimise any impact on the scheme and its members.
And, of course, our farmers’ market will still be happening every Saturday, with our local farmers bringing all the home-grown veg they have available each week.
To hear more about the impact of a no-deal Brexit, it’s worth listening to last week’s Food Programme, in equal parts sobering (Guy Watson saying Riverford could be bankrupted within weeks by a no-deal Brexit), infuriating (the Adam Smith Institute’s Tim Worstall’s fondness for importing chlorinated chicken and throwaway disregard for UK farmers) and interesting (shining much-needed light on the weaknesses in the UK food system and provoking conversations about a national food strategy).
For a longer analysis about the impact on food and farming, check out the statement from Sustain: the Alliance for Better Food and Farming, written last summer but still relevant: A ‘no deal’ Brexit will indeed mean shortages – mainly of food and farming jobs, workers, transport and common sense