Like many other Italian restaurants in London, the eatery Olivo is very much a product of the European Union’s single market. Its staff is mostly from Sardinia, able to work in the U.K. without special papers or visas. And its gourmet meals are made possible by a supply chain that extends across national borders to the island in the Mediterranean.
Every week for the past 10 years, pallets loaded with fresh produce, cheese, cured grey mullet eggs and many other Sardinian specialties have left a small warehouse in the town of Elmas to be transported to the restaurant some 1,900 kilometers (1,181 miles) away.
Door to door, the journey takes five days to reach Olivo, where the food is unloaded and turned into dishes such as spaghetti with sea urchin, tuna as cooked on the island of Carlo Forte and sebada, a pecorino-cheese fritter covered in honey.
The restaurant’s owner, Mauro Sanna, fears that because of Brexit, that journey will become more cumbersome, cost more and take longer — if it is still possible at all.
Sanna employs staff in Elmas to source produce locally that is then packed onto pallets in small quantities. A typical pallet could include seasonal Sardinian artichokes, white zucchini, bottarga fish eggs, niche hams and a few packs of Nutella biscuits, said Sanna.
“I need three to four hams a week. I cannot buy a pallet of ham,” he added.
Such practices — known as groupage — may no longer be feasible for small importers as each individual item will have its own code that needs adding to transportation documents that are then checked at the border before delivery trucks can enter the U.K.
Form-filling requirements now also fall on local producers who may not have the capacity or will to take on the burden.
“The era of mixed consignments will pretty much come to an end,” said Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform. “It just becomes too much hassle.”
For customers at restaurants such as Olivo, that would mean at best higher prices and at worst a less authentic experience. “The main reason for this set-up isn’t cost, but authenticity and quality,” Sanna said. “It is about identity, and it will be hard to maintain that.”
—Alberto Nardelli in London
Before the pandemic, about 1 in 10 people living in U.S. households that had taken a hit to income reported not always having enough to eat, according to U.S. Census data. Last year, that ratio grew to 1 in 5. The crisis has endured long enough that advocacy group Feeding America estimates more than 50 million Americans ended the year food insecure and dependent on help from the government or local charities. Read Shawn Donnan’s story about U.S. inequality here.
Today’s Must Reads
- Air protein | One of the world’s largest agricultural commodity traders is pouring money into a startup making meat from elements of the air. Seriously.
- Hefty hunger | Global food prices reached a six-year high in December and are likely to keep rising into 2021, adding to pressure on household budgets while hunger surges around the world.
- Food, glorious food | Fewer Canadians aim to eat healthier in 2021: Just 30% of respondents said they plan to diet, compared with 42% in 2020, according to a report released by Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab and Angus Reid.
- Don’t care what it looks like | The U.K. is looking at changing regulations to allow gene editing in farming, in a sign of shifting agricultural policy following the nation’s departure from the EU.
- Burned, underdone, crude | A meat-fraud scandal is roiling Malaysia after a local news outlet uncovered a cartel that allegedly bribed customs officials in order to smuggle in all kinds of meat and label it halal, triggering outrage in the Muslim-majority country.
- Just think of growing fat | Promotions on foods high in fat, salt and sugar will be restricted in supermarkets and soft drink refills banned in England from April as part of a drive to cut obesity.
- Our senses go reeling | Filipinos didn’t let the coronavirus pandemic prevent them from getting a roasted pig delicacy onto their dining tables during the holiday season despite a hit to the disposable incomes of many.
- One moment of knowing that | We cooked Eleven Madison Park $475 honey lavender roasted duck meal kit. Here’s how it went.
- Full-up feeling | American meatpackers are benefiting from one bright spot in the restaurant industry during the pandemic: fast-food sales.
On the Bloomberg Terminal
- Saving grace | A U.K.-EU Brexit deal saves imports of Belgian chocolate, beef and cheese from Ireland and French cheese — all of which are products where imports to the U.K. may have fallen by 31%-89% on a no deal, Bloomberg Intelligence says, citing a FoodDrinkEurope report.
- More money | Supply chains of European packaged-food companies have coped with seesaw demand, yet will require further investment to position companies in the new-growth areas for 2021, Bloomberg Intelligence says.
- Use the AHOY function to track global commodities trade flows.
- Click HERE for automated stories about supply chains.
- See BNEF for BloombergNEF’s analysis of clean energy, advanced transport, digital industry, innovative materials, and commodities.
- Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts.
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