Supermarkets are struggling with Brexit
Brexit architect Nigel Farage might be sighing with relief after his political hobby horse briefly stopped McDonald’s’s milkshake supply, but its impact on U.K. supermarket food shortages is likely to go well beyond the temporary. Numerous supermarkets, including Co-Op, Iceland, and Marks and Spencer, are presenting grave projections of supply problems well into 2022, leading to some predictable headlines about “cancelling Christmas.”
As in the restaurant world, the COVID-19 pandemic has both masked and deferred the arrival of labour shortages and transit problems. The sudden disruption that was expected come January 2021 didn’t really arrive — except, most notably in the case of shellfish producers left with rotting product at the border — but now, with online delivery receding and “traditional” supermarket visits returning, empty shelves and limited choice are becoming more and more familiar.
That doesn’t mean that talking about labour shortfalls is clear-cut. There are indisputably fewer EU workers in the U.K., but many of the roles causing supply chain disruption — meat production plants, fruit picking farms, and warehouse work — were previously reliant on low pay and cramped conditions, whose precarity and risk only became more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is prompting calls and action to raise wages, which may increase food prices, but these wages were already too low. The government is reluctant to make the visa changes that would again allow EU workers to fill these roles, a route which would both solve the “shortage” and keep wages down, rather than improving them. This purgatorial feedback loop is unlikely to resolve itself anytime soon, and in the meantime, disruption will continue. [Independent]
And in other news...
- A feature on the art of Sri Lankan lamprais — a dish whose heavenly complexity demands due reverence from the chefs who cook it.
- An updated guide to the best Sunday roasts in London.
- Supa Ya Ramen will open its second ramen bar on Kingsland Road, after the first on Hackney Road was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Luke Findlay’s bowls started life as a pop-up at this flat in Stoke Newington, and he now dubs them “traditionally inauthentic.”
- Camden’s Hawley Wharf arrives with a clutch of restaurants, notable for another patisserie by Phillipe Conticini and a new site for siu mei specialists Three Uncles. [Hot Dinners]
- Science lab cafe Roasting Plant will open in Selfridges’s food hall, persisting with the idea that brewing coffee just after roasting is good. This claim is disputed.
- Good tweet: