As COP 26 starts this week, you might have been expecting a climate column – I suspect much of the rest of this paper will be covering that, so for the sake of variety, I am going elsewhere, just like much of Glasgow probably.

It’s not that I don’t think it’s important, I just don’t hold out much hope that it will be more than a theatre for the big celebs and political figures to showboat, or more originally, in the case of Putin and Xi, not turn up at all. As HM the Queen was overheard saying last week: “It’s irritating when they talk, but don’t do.” Our monarch nailing it as usual.

Read more: Guidance for COP26 from QMS

Besides, I have more immediate concerns, not least strawberry yields. Although our strawberries are covered by polytunnels, they are still affected by the weather, and two weather events, one this year and one last autumn, have conspired to make this a poor strawberry harvest.

Strawberries initiate flowers for next year’s crop in the autumn of the previous year. If the weather is cold and wet, the plants initiate fewer, smaller flowers. This means that whatever comes after, the crop will still be small.

When flowers start to emerge in the spring, they are vulnerable to cold weather and frost in April and May. Although almost all our tunnels are covered during this period, most of them do not have doors on the ends as we only want to force a portion of our crop to come early, so the bitterly cold north winds in May took their toll on some crops.

To add to the complication, we grow a fair percentage of ever-bearer type strawberries. Ever-bearers, unlike June bearers, produce flush after flush of flowers, so normally we would expect to pick four flushes of fruit in a season from one plant.

Because the cold weather delayed the flush in May, we had only managed to pick three flushes; the fourth one managed to flower, but it will be too dark and cool in October and November for it to come to fruition.

As perpetual weather gamblers, we must be philosophical about these setbacks, for that’s the risk we choose and the benign autumn conditions this year at least give some hope that next year might be better.

Unfortunately, the volatility doesn’t end with the weather. There is an abundance of man-made turbulence, too, which will still be here next year. It is regrettable that at least some of it is avoidable.

Just to ease you in gently to the list of troubles, let’s start with haulage. Cabotage is causing carnage in the supply chain. Drivers from abroad are only permitted to do a limited number of deliveries within the country they deliver their original load to.

Pre-Brexit, drivers from abroad were permitted three internal deliveries in seven days, but that has now been reduced to two in the UK and for UK drivers in the EU, only one. This has led to inefficiency and has exacerbated the shortage of drivers.

A temporary increase has finally been agreed, but it has taken months of pain to get to this point and the damage is done, at least for many home-grown agricultural crops.

But this is also a major cause of rocketing costs of all imports. For example, coco coir, the vital sustainable growing medium for all soft fruit, has risen from £76/m3 to £104/m3 because of the rise in cost of shipping containers.

The cost of fuel is directly related to Covid-19. Demand for oil has risen this year as economies recovered, but there is a time lag as oil producing countries are nervous about increasing production again. Gas oil was 41p/litre from Ringlink a year ago, it is now 69p. Kerosene is up from 26p to 50p.

Natural gas scarcity has had a shocking impact on the price of fertiliser. Nitrogen was £220 per tonne a year ago; it is now £660, although that is a theoretical price, as none is currently available.

The minimum wage is set to rise over 6% from £8.91 to £9.50 next year. In real terms, the cost for employers will be much more, as employers’ NI and holiday pay will also rise.

Contrary to popular belief, this won’t lead miraculously to lots of local fruit pickers and packers descending on to the fields and packhouses, and labour will be perilously short again next year.

The industry has been calling for the seasonal worker scheme to double in size to 60,000 next year. This might stop crop loss, but the added unnecessary cost of the scheme will be an eyewatering £18m per annum.

With an astronomical increase in all costs, it might be reasonable to expect a compensatory rise in the price of fresh produce. Marketing organisations must have serious conversations urgently with retailers about price.

Fresh produce in the UK is cheaper in real terms than at any time in this country’s history and it is currently the third cheapest in the world after Singapore and the USA. Retailers can afford to support their growers without necessarily passing on all the cost to the customer.

The alternatives don’t look great for a grower. If the cost is passed on to customers, previous experience indicates that sales stagnate.

The other alternative is that retailers look to cheaper imports and my experience as a blueberry grower, looking at Peruvian blueberries on the shelves in the UK season, tells me that this is likely to be the preferred solution.

Retailers will get no resistance from the UK government on imported food. Nothing they have said, or done up to now suggests otherwise. I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but the newly signed New Zealand trade deal, which has nothing in it for farmers, stops me.

The much heralded, but always clearly unworkable Northern Ireland protocol stops me. The ideological refusal to address acute labour shortages across all sectors of agriculture, hospitality and transport stop me.

When home-produced fresh fruit and veg runs short and becomes prohibitively expensive – and it will – the solution will be to import food from abroad.

Read more: COP26: Leading climate figure Christiana Figueres headlines annual Macaulay lecture

Is there a glimmer of hope in all the gloom? It might just be possible that the fragility which has been exposed in the supply chain over the past 18 months can force government and retailers to finally realise the value and security of a domestic food supply and start supporting it instead of adding to the problems.

The fundamental and first priority of any government should be a secure and stable supply of food to the people it is responsible for. It is still not too late to reflect ... and change course.