The weather is absolutely freezing at the moment and it means that not a lot can be done outside… And this has got me thinking about the future.
The time that the latest lockdown brings and rumblings of things changing in the shops due to Brexit, has led me to ask myself – what should I be growing now that the UK is out of the EU.
It’s no secret that gaps are starting to appear on shelves down the fresh fruit isles, due not only to new Brexit importing rules, but also the strain covid-19 has put on staff shortages at food producers.
So let’s try and answer the question – What should I be growing in Brexit Britain.
Let’s start with some cold hard facts to help decide:
- Approximately 30% of food in the UK arrives from the EU, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)
- Around 50% of fresh fruit and veg in the UK, comes from the EU and most of that consists of fruit
- Generally speaking, imports and exports of produce can fluctuate dramatically, based on season. For instance, during the summer months, the UK produces 95% of its own salad leaves. In the winter months, the UK can only rely on 10% – the rest has to be imported in
- Since 2016, imports of fresh fruit and veg from the EU has been in decline overall – but the produce that the UK makes itself is at around 60%
So, of the produce seen on our supermarket shelves, how much of it approximately is imported in from the EU, produced in the UK and imported in from outside of the EU…
|Produce most commonly |
found on our
|Imported in |
from the EU
|Produced in |
|Imported in |
from outside of the EU
|Chillies and peppers||84%||11%||6%|
|Squash and pumpkins||77%||0%||23%|
|Lemons and limes||62%||0%||38%|
|Tangerines and satsumas||0%||55%||45%|
|Cauliflower and broccoli||43%||56%||1%|
|Carrots and turnips||4%||95%||1%|
The above statistics are obviously subject to change as things unfold – but I think it’s a good start in knowing where our food is coming from predominantly.
What to grow in Brexit Britain
If rising prices and/or low availability due to how the UK imports goods from the EU is a concern, you’d do right to grow the items that are imported the most (70% or higher), from the get go.
- Chillies and peppers
The winter months, for the UK is the time where prices and availability are more likely to be affected, so ideally (and if possible) in the winter it would be good to grow your own salad items, mainly tomatoes and lettuce. Perfect if you’ve got a polytunnel.
Soft fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries..etc) are imported during the winter months. With that in mind, it would be a good idea to freeze and store these as they’re ripening in the summer months. Spinach, squash and pumpkins also have the potential to be frozen or stored.
Root veg and brassicas seem to grow well in the UK – so I’m not sure if I should worry too much about those. This is with the exception of frozen potatoes (chips, waffles, frozen roast potatoes…etc) of which 0% is created in the UK
As mentioned previously, times at when items are imported can change with the seasons, and the BBC made this helpful infographic below to show what is imported and when.
Carrying out research for this post and trying to find out when the UK conducts its imports, has led me to some very interesting materials online.
- What does Brexit mean for UK fresh Product – Fruitnet
- Could Brexit make my food more expensive – BBC
- Food, Drink and Brexit: What you need to know – Which
- UK import fresh fruit and vegetables 2020 – Fruit and veg facts
I’ve also identified numerous variables to take into account in all of this, which may or may not come to pass as time goes on.
The UK will no doubt be looking toward other places to trade with and import produce from – although this can take time to materialise.
I suspect (and would like to think) that the UK will also adapt, with UK suppliers looking to grow out of season produce domestically. Growing your own and gardening has also seen an uptick in interest in the past 12 months or so.
Lastly, Brexit is still relatively fresh and so the way in which things are actually conducted at various borders are still being worked out. Hopefully, as efficiency improves, so will the cost and availability of produce.
Having researched this topic, it makes me ponder – should I grow the usual fare? Should I be growing things that I like? Should I be growing things that provide good yields and can be stored, regardless of world events? Should I be growing things that will either be hard to come by or may become too expensive?
Or – should I just not give this all a second thought? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.