Brexit & Covid-19 combo causing havoc with our food and drinks supplies

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s the Brexit-Covid-19 combo that is causing havoc with our food and drinks supplies.

I have written in my previous columns what the impact of Brexit would be on the supply chains especially the food and drinks sector and it seems the chickens have come home to roost! The UK is going through a massive shortfall of key workers with vacancies running at a record high level. In early September the Recruitment and Employment Confederation reported that there were over 1.11 million vacancies at the end of August 2021 and this number is set to rise in the coming months. The sectors suffering the most with a shortfall of workers are HGV drivers (100,000+), Nurses (79,123), Carers (49,751), Chefs (29,996), IT Professionals (68,929), Retail Assistants (26,183), Primary and nursery education teaching professionals (30,574), Cleaners & domestics (24,148), Metal working production and maintenance fitters (19,748) and Carpenters and joiners (6,364). Other jobs highlighted with high vacancy rates include veterinary nurses, ambulance drivers and postal workers. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for the Shortage Occupation List, which allows companies to recruit skilled workers from the EU and the rest of the world, to be extended to all specialist welders, as well as butchers and bricklayers. The Road Haulage Association has consistently argued that HGV drivers should be included in the scheme as vacancies have risen from a pre-COVID level of 60,000 to beyond 100,000 – threatening wider distribution disruption as the key Christmas season approaches.

To top this up last week we learnt that the UK is bracing itself for a severe shortage of CO2 gas impacting supplies of beer, fizzy drink and meat! The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was warned last week of the shortages caused by the closure of two major fertiliser plants. While the general public may not be aware, the drinks industry relies on CO2 to carbonate beverages, while the meat industry uses the gas extensively throughout processing; in slaughterhouses, and for packaging and refrigeration. The British Poultry Council (BPC) warned the industry was heading into a “downward spiral towards supply chains seriously struggling”. The council urged the government to prioritise CO2 supplies for food production to limit the disruption to supermarket supplies and hospitality businesses. Supermarkets shelves and restaurants are expected to be affected from this week onwards given that the gas is instrumental to the production of carbonated drinks and meat processing. All the major fast-food chains have suffered due to supply issues and this will continue in the foreseeable future unless the government gets its act together.

So, who is to blame for this mess and what can we do as ordinary citizens to stop this from getting worse? Winter is upon us and already consumers have seen a huge rise in prices of essential consumer goods. Most food and other household expenses have shot up by over 40 percent in some cases. The rich and the middle class are as always, cushioned by any negative impact on the economy but the majority of us have to rely on a hand to mouth existence not knowing when things will get better. Here is hoping that we don’t face a real winter of financial hardship and discontent as this time the powers that be will not escape the wrath of its people.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 24th September 2021.

COP26 Glasgow 2021 – Scotland’s Time to Shine on the World Stage – Part II

 

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, continues in this second and final part of his two-part column to share his thoughts on the real reasons behind the apathy from pursuing urgent climate policies, the current status-quo’s main benefactors along with possible ideas and solutions to empower citizens of the world to help save our planet.

Why this apathy from governments and corporations across the globe in rejecting fossil fuels and fully embracing renewables?  The answer is our insatiable thirst for cheap oil and the powerful lobby that controls all aspects of the economy. Since the 1960’s there has been a growing movement by environmentalist in the West to raise awareness and educate its citizens on the devastating impact of oil on the planet since the industrial revolution. The eco-system, indigenous cultures and people have faced the brunt of big corporations and countries like the US and UK bulldozing their way through developing and third world countries in search of oil and other resources to feed their ever-growing consumerism.

China was chosen by Western corporations to become the intensive factory producing country of all its goods to be then transported all across the globe. The narrative globally is that China is one of the main polluters of the world. Of course, it is, what were you expecting when your own country closes most of its manufacturing industries and transfers all production to China because of its lax labour laws, non-existing human rights and the fear of a communist state to force its people to work in sometimes hostile and unsafe conditions. The world has bankrolled the communist state of China and turned a blind eye to all atrocities committed by the Chinese state in exchange for cheap goods and low environmental standards. Scotland like the rest of the UK, Europe, Japan and the US are all poised to meet their carbon emissions target. But this is a lie and misleading. So long as China keeps producing over 70% of the world’s goods, it will also be responsible for high carbon emissions.

The main beneficiaries of this one-sided trade arrangements are the biggest oil corporations like BP, Shell, etc. the list goes on. Shareholders and CEOs are making a killing in profits and will continue to do so if we don’t take action now. I sometimes feel we have already crossed the line of no return and we all are heading towards the cliff.

On a positive note, we had some good news last weekend, were members of the Green Party and the SNP voted to sign a deal making it a coalition government in the Scottish parliament. This gave the Scottish Greens its first attempt at being in government anywhere in the whole of the UK. Members from both political parties voted overwhelmingly in support of the agreement. Since the COP26 climate conference is to be held soon in Glasgow, this will give the ruling coalition plenty of time to formulate a green message to be delivered by Scotland in Scotland to the rest of the world.

Citizens from across the globe should work together in not supporting heavy fossil fuel industries by delinking from any financial gains currently being received in the forms of investments, shares and pensions. By switching to alternate providers that are ethical and support the environment, this will starve these industries of much needed cash to keep drilling for more oil. Politicians and civil servants should have in their contracts a clause forbidding them to be in a position to gain financially from the oil industry. Fossil fuel lobbyists should be banned from meeting any government officials elected or otherwise and all policies relating to fossil fuels should be made available to the general public for scrutiny before passing into law. Heavy fines should be imposed depending on company or individuals’ income as sometimes a few millions worth of fines is a drop in the ocean for oil corporations.

Here is hoping the human race stands together to fight greed and corruption and put mother nature first.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 3rd September 2021.