INTERRUPTIONS to food supply to Scottish shops and restaurants are largely due to Brexit – not the “pingdemic” – say independent food retailers. They report that one major issue is hauliers from the EU have cut the UK from their routes. Some suppliers in European countries are also finding other buyers for their produce, because of the costs involved in post-Brexit paperwork.
Other commentators pointed out that Scotland does not in fact have a “pingdemic” as the Scottish track and trace app alerted only around 2500 people last week to isolate. On social media, sceptics shared images of abundant fruit and veg displays in supermarkets in EU countries, which are also enduring heatwaves, Covid and using test and trace apps.
A YouGov poll last week showed more than a third of people across the UK are experiencing food shortages in local stores. Scots however may be particularly affected by the shortage of lorry drivers caused by Brexit and Covid. Most produce from EU countries comes through England. After partial border checks, it has to transfer to lorries for longer journeys. In response to concerns over supply, Independence Live has launched a Food Sovereignty campaign.
Toilet roll and kitchen roll aisles at Pitlochry Co-op were completely empty this weekend. Water shelves were full – but instead of the usual variety, only with Co-op brand water. A staff member said: “Quite a lot of our drivers were from the EU. There were about six who used to deliver to this store – and they are all away now because of Brexit.” Nobody in the store was self-isolating.
Award-winning greengrocer Francesco Cosentino, who runs Il Fruttivendolo in Linlithgow and is opening a shop in Edinburgh’s Dalry area, said: “I don’t think people in this country have any idea how dependent we are on food from the EU. Even something like cheddar – people think that is British but a lot of it is made in Ireland.”
Francesco imports produce from Italy. He said: “Before Brexit, it was so simple. The food was delivered by an Italian road haulier. But since Brexit, they have cut the UK from their routes because of the paperwork. I now have 77 pages of customs declarations I have to check through every week.
“Now the food comes through London. It can be delayed there because of border checks. I import high quality items – Italian mozzarella and romaine lettuces. They have a shelf life of one week. Before Brexit they would leave Italy on Friday and be in my shop on Monday and I had all week to sell them.
“But if they get delayed in London, they can miss their slot to Scotland. There are only slots available about twice a week now instead of every day. If I don’t get the stuff until Wednesday that only gives me two days to sell them. One load was so delayed I couldn’t sell it at all – I lost £2000. I had to swallow that loss – I am not eligible for any help. It is devastating.
“I pay more for shipments; I pay to work with each individual supplier. People don’t want to pay pounds more for paperwork.
“This will impact the quality of food that is available in Scotland. It is impacting Italian, Spanish and Polish communities particularly. Many have businesses that depend on these supply chains. It also impacts quality of life.”
GARTH Gulland from Glasgow’s Roots and Fruits said: “Brexit is a nightmare. It used to be so smooth. The lorries were waved straight through. The trouble is we are not dealing with things that are made in a factory and can be left somewhere until needed. The supply chain for fresh food has to be carefully thought through. That is not happening.
“This is like riding a bike that has been left out in the rain for two years, it is creaking, all the gears are juddering, we are trying our hardest to cycle it, but it keeps jamming. It is heartbreaking. All of this used to be so easy, now we have to pour all our energy into standing still.”
Giovanna Eusebi, of Eusebi’s deli in Glasgow’s West End, said: “I am finding that I am losing some of my suppliers in Italy. These are small family-owned businesses I have worked with for years and they can’t support the admin costs of the paperwork since Brexit. It is sad.
“We have adapted our menu, so we only bring in dry goods from Italy, things like coffee beans, pasta flour, olive oil. Everything is costing us more. And there are delays – it is taking up to six weeks. Now we use mostly local fresh produce – today we have sourced some beautiful courgette flowers from The Wash House. We base our specials on whatever we have. If we get a glut of something we will preserve it to use in the cafe this autumn.
“When my mum first started a deli in Shettleston in the 1970s, she had to buy olive oil from the chemists. I hope we don’t go back to that! Scotland has many health issues to do with poor quality food and I am concerned about the potential impact of rising costs.”