Brits notoriously love their sandwiches, but access to this staple food could become compromised after Brexit
09 Agosto 2018 15:56
Translated from the original article written in Spanish by Marc Casanovas.
Who would tell the Earl of Sandwich when he asked for "something quick to eat" to his servants in 1762 that his surname would give name to "the greatest contribution to the gastronomy of Great Britain", according to The Wall Street Journal, and to a powerful industry that creates profits of £8 billion per year worldwide.
It's not just the success of chains such as Pret A Manager, Subway or Greggs; the sandwich transformed the English lunch, then did the same with breakfast, and it is changing dinner. In a recent Market Force survey, 44% of Britons said they were "very satisfied" with their last experience eating a sandwich.
According to the TNS Food Panel, 11.5 million sandwiches are consumed in the UK per year. This is a lot of sandwiches for the natural resources available on the British Isles. So the question is immediate:
How do the English prepare and eat this many sandwiches a year without depleting the natural resources of the United Kingdom? It is simple: If the famous British sandwich did not use European ingredients, it would simply consist of two slices of bread with nothing inside.
The British Society of Baking defends itself: "Almost 80% of all sandwiches are made at home!" Says Nigel Hunter. But it is a half truth... or half lie. It is true that this percentage is prepared on the British Isles, but the ingredients are bought in Europe. For this same reason, Brexit could be a huge blow to such an established industry.
Politico.eu caused a stir this week with an eye-grabbing headline not usually used in reference to the European Parliament: "How the Brexit will kill the sandwich." Here is how.
The only 100% British ingredient. The bakers' guild is the main stakeholder in the good health of the sandwich industry. The more sandwiches sold, the more bread sold. A curiosity: nobody wants the end slice of sliced bread in the sandwich. For this reason the industry rejects it in the chain production process. Even the big brands already have automated machines that discard it. That's why many local beer producers go to the sandwich "factories" to look for those leftover slices to make their craft beer.
The United Kingdom imports 60% of the ham it consumes. Denmark is the main supplier with 26%, Germany 18%, Netherlands 15%, and Belgium 10%. How will Brexit affect the UK pork industry? The National Pig Association is clear: “Would a very hard Brexit harm the United Kingdom? Many people have suggested it, and have rightly identified that the price of pork would increase drastically and consumer demand would decrease.”
The cheese needed for a good English sandwich is cheddar. The problem is that the import of their favourite cheese is under threat due to Brexit. Ireland contributes 82% of British cheddar (about 79 thousand tonnes). The main Irish manufacturers are considering changing production to mozzarella due to fears that Britain will fall out of the European Union.
Most of the tomato that is eaten in the United Kingdom comes from Spain, and to a lesser extent from Holland. The import figures were around 410 thousand tonnes in 2017. Currently, Spain is going through a hard struggle between producers and the tomato industry, which wants to reduce its area and prices. According to the final production figures published by WPTC (World Processing Tomato Council), the largest processor remained in California with 10.5 million tonnes of processed tomatoes, followed by China (6.2 million tonnes) and Italy (5 2 million tonnes); Spain remains in 4th place with 2-3.3 million tonnes. The United Kingdom have none.
The United Kingdom grew 13,500 tonnes of lettuce in 2017, but had to import 192,500 tonnes more to solve the demand of the sandwich industry. Again, the majority of lettuce comes from Spain; Murcia specifically. According to the statistical agency of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), China, The US, India, Spain and Italy, in this order, generate 8 out of 10 lettuces that are produced in the world. The United Kingdom is in thirteenth place.
The United Kingdom imports 25% of the butter it needs for its sandwiches. Mostly from Ireland. The potential cut-off of tariff-free access to the UK market is of critical importance, in particular for Irish exports of cheese and butter. In general, the loss to the UK market could have a destabilising effect on the overall value of the Irish dairy sector.
And here the nightmare does not end. Jim Winship, director of the British Sandwich Association, visualises other collateral problems:
“If we crash out of Europe, we’d have problems even if only at border control because our industry works on a fresh basis and our products have a low shelf life. Ingredients could rot in the docks before getting to us,” he told Politico.
“In order to make a fresh sandwich, you need fresh ingredients. A product has to be as fresh as it can possibly get before it is assembled and then distributed to shops all over the U.K. That infrastructure goes right back to the supply chain.”