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Food Shortages, Gas Prices and Covid the perfect storm
Here in the UK things don't seem to be getting much better. We have come out of lockdown and life has returned to some sort of normality though as the economy has started to open up again a few things have happened which are quite worrying.
There is currently a shortage of lorry drivers here in the UK, for many reasons including the 'pingdemic' (people being told to isolate as a result of being a close contact of someone with covid? via a notification on their phone), foreign workers deciding to go return home now that britan has left the EU and because of industrial action at the DVLA which has caused a delay in drivers getting their licences back.
Deliveries have not been getting to supermarkets in particular and in many stores the shelves are half empty. Hauliers have been prioritising fresh fruit and veg which has a short shelf life rather that other products but they are still struggling to manage that.
On top of that there is increased demand for gas and electricity in the UK as companies have tried to ramp up production to make up for losses incured due to lockdown measures. The UK relies heavily, especially in the winter months of gas imported from the continent and Russia.
Wholesale prices have risen by as much as 250% since the start of the year which includes a 70% spike since August.
The state russian backed suppier Gazprom has been suspected of trying to manipute the market and push up prices, though they have responded by saying that the supply of gas is in full compliance with existing contracts.
Some small energy firms here in the UK have already gone bust and more could follow. They have offered customers fixed price contracts so will be losing money rapidly due to the price hikes.
Here in the UK the government are worried about the impact on the most vunerable who will be hit the hardest by rising prices. There is even talk of using taxpayers money to support energy companies in the short term.
We have wind power and hydro electric that we produce over here but this alone cannot keep up with the huge current demand.
If that wasn't bad enough another knock on effect of rising gas prices has been that 2 fertiliser factories in Cheshire and Teeside have stopped production. This is significant because a by product of producing fertiliser is CO2.
CO2 is vital for some NHS operations as well as being used in the manufacture of fizzy drinks, the packaging of foods such as cheese, fruit and vegetables and many other products.
The government has been forced to offer to pay the full operating costs to the 2 fertiliser producers in order to get them to restart production, for a period of at least 3 weeks, after which there should be enough supply of CO2 to meet demand, however the food industry would have to accept a big sharp rise in the cost of CO2 from around £200 per tonne to around £1000 per tonne. This will surely lead to rising prices in the shops which could cause inflation, currently at 3.2% to rise even further.
With the onset of winter and the risk of the resurgence of covid-19 and possibly the return of some restrictions, outlined in the governments 'winter plan' how bad could things get?
Record government borrowing to pay for the impact of covid-19, a rise in National Insurance already agreed, the end of the universal credit 'uplift' which was an additional £20 a week for those on universal credit, rising energy prices, food shortages, a resurgence of covid-19 despite more than 80% of the population being vaccinated!
I am just thinking, if you want to get a Turkey for Christmas this year then maybe you should start looking now and keep it in your freezer, which is all well and good unless we run out of energy and the electric goes down and our freezers defrost and so on.
Maybe stock up on some storable food too while you can!
All these things happening simultaneously is unprecedented and creates all the conditions for a perfect storm. It could be a long difficult winter!
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