Vegetables either not existing in the shops, or rationed, bizarre alternatives on offer (how many ways are there to cook turnips, I wonder), people having to choose between heating or eating. Supermarkets imposing rationing on the number of vegetables customers can buy, and warnings from some experts that restrictions could exist for weeks, with retailers blaming bad weather in Morocco and Spain for the shortages. Britain sources fruit and vegetables from both countries and both have had a difficult harvest. (Vegetarians will disappear by the sound of it).

Even eggs are in short supply – have hens gone on strike too? Are they following the lead of other strikers: teachers, nurses, civil servants and rail workers – with disputes mostly over pay rises to keep up with rising prices.

According to one newspaper, Spanish farms have been hit by cold spells, while Morocco – where some produce has been shipped from - has experienced flooding and cold weather, which has also delayed shipments to the UK. Surging fertiliser prices, linked to the war in Ukraine, have also led to lower yields in the fields, all of these have disrupted trade.

Homegrown produce has also been hit by soaring costs as higher electricity prices have made growing fruit and vegetables in greenhouses over winter significantly more expensive. The National Farmers Union has warned surging costs have caused many farmers to cut back on production while some have been driven out of the industry completely.

Perfect storm

The UK’s energy system has been forced into a mess by a perfect storm of market forces that threaten to rip through the economy from home energy suppliers to heavy industry, from factories to farmers. This has brought fears that a wave of energy suppliers will collapse, and that households will be landed with unaffordable bills - these are factors shaping the energy crisis.

Well, I am glad I don’t live there. I can gloatingly report that I can still buy my lovely veggies over here in Portugal, whether from a store or the local market, and there are plenty of those, where farmers - or farmer’s wives – chatter between themselves while you choose their produce to take home, and I don’t really care if my tomatoes are an irregular shape, or my cabbages are missing a few leaves.

Are we likely to need to send food parcels back to Blighty to keep friends and family from starving? Would the Red Cross get involved? The Bombeiros? Are food banks going to be next, or food coupons or stamps? If they can’t get wheat, what sort of biscuits are available to dip in their tea?

Well, we certainly can’t get parcels sent here from the UK without them getting swallowed up in a (seemingly) complex Customs machine thanks to Brexit, and I wonder if it would be easy to send stuff in reverse?

Hoarding will be next, with a Black Market emerging from shady-looking characters on street corners sweeping aside their coats to reveal a dozen eggs nestling in little pockets, or heads of broccoli from briefcases. What will be next? Bartering candles for tomatoes? And how soon before the Toilet Roll Brigade catches wind of all this, and jump on the bandwagon?

As a little light relief, a friend of a friend has reported an incident from the queue of a supermarket somewhere deep in the heart of Yorkshire. Seated in the trolley behind her was a cute toddler, and as she turned, she caught his eye. He smiled and flung out his chubby little arms, and in the strongest Yorkshire accent at the top of his voice, informed her: ‘there are no bl….y tomatoes, no bl.…..y eggs, no bl.…..y peppers, its bl…..y ridiculous, there’s turnips!’ The mother, wide-eyed in horror, mouthed ‘don’t react’, but then he spun round and declared it all again - louder - to the people behind him. Everyone creased up laughing, and the joy on the child’s face made him declare again the voice of a nation to anyone within hearing range.

Maybe this is what everyone should do.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan