In praise of non-selfsufficiency

The NHS has a problem feeding those who cannot feed themselves:

A shortage of intravenous feed supplies affecting hundreds of patients has been declared a national emergency incident by the NHS.

The situation has affected patients who are unable to digest food normally and are instead dependent on an intravenous feed, which bypasses the gastrointestinal tract, known as parenteral nutrition (PN). The NHS has been forced to try to source supplies from overseas to address the domestic shortage.

It has been caused by a reduction in output by PN producer Calea as a result of it being directed by the medical regulator to take immediate action to change its manufacturing process.

Something went wrong with the domestic supplier, we must source from overseas.

Those hunting for a bubbling dish of cauliflower cheese in a restaurant will be in for disappointment after the crop was killed off by the freak July weather, causing a shortage.

Britain is usually self-sufficient for cauliflower, which has become fashionable in recent years, roasted whole as a plant-based Sunday dinner and whizzed up as an alternative to rice.

As the country baked in temperatures, which hit a record 38.7 degrees, brassica plants were killed off. This means wholesale prices have been hiked from 60p-£3 in some cases, and restaurants have taken cauliflower off their menus entirely.

Something went wrong with domestic supply, we must source from overseas.

All of which illustrates the inanity of the fashionable mantra that we must be self sufficient in our supplies. The argument often enough being, well, what if something happens out there and so we can’t get any? This ignoring the bitter experience of the ages which is what happens if something goes wrong here and we can’t get any?

To illustrate, famine is a product of there not being food locally, not an absence of food globally.

Resilience of supply is a function of having multiple suppliers. Where supply is dependent upon weather, to use just the one example, then we’d like those many suppliers to be spread across many different weather systems.

That is, the perfect food delivery system would be exactly the opposite of what current fashion generally proposes. That proposal being that we should grow everything we can ourselves, only going overseas for what cannot be produced here at all. Which is, we insist, absolutely the wrong decision.

Rather, even if we can produce sufficient here we don’t want to. It is better that the - just an example - 20 areas which can grow the same crop do so and each trade 19/20ths of it with the others. If we wish to maximise the security of our supply that is. After all, we do generally recognise that monopolies are bad things and the failure of a monopoly supplier is a catastrophe. Therefore we shouldn’t have monopoly supplies even unto not having a monopoly of our food supply from one geographic area. Even if that monopoly is local food for local people.