Could farmers' markets be the answer to Brexit shortage chaos fears?
PUBLISHED: 17:12 03 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:14 06 September 2019
Suffolk Market Events
Suffolk's local food producers have sought to calm fears of Brexit food shortages after gloomy predictions of major interruptions to UK supplies.
Farmers' market traders say they are confident that they will be able to provide an uninterrupted service to customers at uninflated prices - whichever way Brexit goes.
Justine Paul, founder of Suffolk Market Events, which co-ordinates monthly markets across six Suffolk towns, points out consumers aren't doomed to queues and high prices after reports of potential major delays at ports.
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With 40% of our food and drink imported from the European Union, and 79% of that destined for supermarket shelves, the markets organiser, who plays host to around 200 traders - all of which source and make food within a 30 to 50 mile radius of the county's market towns - says they are telling her that it will be business as usual, Brexit or no Brexit.
"Suffolk has an abundance of superb local artisan producers that do not rely on the supermarket or wholesale distribution but trade at regular farmers markets every week around the county," she says.
Produce including meat, fruit and vegetables, eggs, honey, cider, bread and wine travels from just down the road, she points out.
"Even if the country is going through a period of uncertainty - there is real certainty that our local Suffolk producers will be growing, rearing and producing high quality local food at exactly the same prices - no price hikes, shortages and will be assured of the freshness and provenance of the your food."
Penny Finch, of Newbourne Farm near Woodbridge, a popular vegetable trader at Lavenham and Bury Farmers Markets, says regardless of the outcome on October 31, she has no intention of putting up her prices.
"Buying fresh, seasonal, locally sourced produce, with a low carbon footprint at affordable prices has to be a win scenario for everyone," she says.
Jen Strolenberg of Lavenham Butchers, which attends Lavenham and Sudbury markets, says her business was passionate about supporting local farmers.
"With Brexit on the cusp we are hoping more of the general public will support the local independent businesses, producers. We feel it important to know where food is coming from, as currently all the big supermarkets are still importing venison from abroad, which seems mightily mad as it's on our doorstep as such.
"This hopefully will be highlighted, and get more people shopping, eating seasonal food that's got low few food miles and lesser of a carbon footprint," she says.
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Mark Conquest, of Brooks and Conquest Artisan Cyder near Newmarket, says all his apples are locally grown, picked, pressed, bottled and labelled and sold in the UK.
"Business will be the same post Brexit as it is now. Supporting our local businesses is the way forward, with local produce, knowledge and craftsmanship," he says.
Matthew Wilsher from Lavenham Brook, which produces beef, wine and apples, says all his produce has low food miles as the growing and packaging is all done very locally.
"As a small business we rely heavily on the local community supporting us by purchasing our produce. We are very proud of what we are able to offer, and the quality of our products speak for themselves," he says.
Beekeeper Ian Hart, of Honey Bee, who trades at Sudbury and Bury markets admits that sole traders are not immune from the effects of political and economic uncertainty, but feels they can overcome the problems by "doing what comes naturally".
"Face to face, trader to customer, a smile, a conversation, advice, an honest response, no price hikes, no uncertainty, no doubts," he says. "It is a purchase of trust, not just a one off. I don't supply online, I have never run out of honey. The fear-mongering of Brexit and the uncertainty this brings is the opposite of trading locally," he says. There is no fear of running out, and the produce comes without an opportunistic Brexit-hyped price tag, he adds.
Poppies Care Farm, which sells its produce at Ipswich farmers' market, points out that it is grown just four miles from the Cornhill where it is sold.
Pork producer Jo Henderson, who attends Sudbury and Ipswich Farmers' Markets says Brexit will have little impact on her business. "All our pigs are bred on farm in Suffolk and fed on locally-sourced feed. We keep our mileage to a minimum by only selling within a 30 mile radius of the farm."
Steve and Lynn Tricker of Truly Traceable in Halesworth say as 95% of their ingredients were either shot by them or sourced or grown locally, they don't consider Brexit to be an issue at all for them.