THE GOVERNMENT at Westminster is putting a brave face on shortages that are getting worse by the day.

It blames these on global problems. That may be so, but empty supermarket shelves, fuel shortages and daily warnings that Christmas may not be the feast of plenty people expect are not mirrored elsewhere. The government insists the problems are not down to Brexit – but if this is the case it needs to then explain why the UK alone is facing food shortages.

It is ironic that those producing the food are not feeling the impact of these higher prices. They are rising to help processors absorb extra costs. Farmers have faced different price pressures over the years, but unlike those further up the food chain,they have been unable to pass on their higher costs.

This highlights the unfairness of the food chain but that is not going to change. However it is important for farmers that consumers recognise they are not the source or the beneficiary of higher prices. If we want to sell the advantages and need for short supply chains,they must not be linked in people's minds to the shortages and higher prices.

The government, not surprisingly, wants to divert attention away from this issue. There is nothing more sensitive with people than higher prices and shortages. Boris Johnson must know that he will not be easily forgiven if Christmas is ruined again this year.

Last year this was down to Covid, but shortages because of government failures are a lot harder to sell. Labour shortages are driving this problem and those are down to the government, in its Brexit negotiations, deeming an end to the free movement of labour the route to the pure Brexit it wanted. This ignored the reality that foreign nationals were doing the essential jobs others would not do. That policy is now the biggest driver of inflation and sooner rather than later will lead to higher interest rates.

The old American bumper sticker that said 'don't criticise a farmer with your mouth full' is once again valid. People are seeing first hand that the difference between full supermarket shelves and low prices to what we now have is a finer line than they ever believed.

Not very long ago most people would have given little thought to food security. This was logical when shelves were full and 'two for one' and other food promotions were daily events. Then along came Covid and for the first time in years food security moved up the agenda. Brexit and labour shortages have however accelerated that process. Food security is now an issue with consumers and should be with politicians. Giving this the attention that it deserves is a difficult pill for government ministers to swallow, but increasingly there will be no escape.

The government is reluctant to take advice from the EU. Indeed with everything going wrong on the supply front at home, it suits it to paint Brussels in a dark light. Cynics even suggest that its current row over the Northern Ireland protocol is another diversionary tactic, with the timing more to do with that than the pressing need for a solution to the border Westminster created in the Irish Sea.

Food security has certainly moved up the agenda in the EU. The trigger was the pandemic, which led to a review into its impact and lessons that must be learned for the future. With speed that Westminster should envy the EU is about to turn debate into fresh thinking on how to guarantee food supplies.

The report says the pandemic showed how vulnerable supply chains are to outside events. It praises the industry for not allowing a health crisis to become a food crisis, and says that despite shortages food price rises in 2020 were modest.

Unlike Westminster, the EU has acknowledged there is a problem. It warns there is now what is calls a 'new risk landscape'. It says the EU and all its member states must make contingency plans to make sure food supplies are secure and insulated from outside events, be they health, politics, weather or disease related.

Interestingly, in another lesson for UK politicians keen to open the door to trade deals, the EU says one of the triggers for action is the danger of long supply chains, citing dependence on imported soya as an example of its vulnerability.