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As another year draws to a close, many of us will be asking ourselves what we’ve learned from the last 12 months and how we can use those lessons to improve our lives both at work and at home in 2018.
For anyone living and working in the UK, there’s an unshakeable feeling that we’re all sitting in a holding pattern created for us by the Brexit vote, watching from above as conjecture and uncertainty plays with our futures. The world of politics can’t and won’t progress far while we all wait to see what leaving the European Union means for our nation. As the economy bumbles along, losing a point or two here or there, exchange rates ebb and flow and consumer spending ebbs and flows too.
Although the media tends to treat every moment in time as if it’s the most important in history these days, further building the concern of the population, it’s always worth remembering that Great Britain has been through far tougher periods than this on many occasions and emerged on the other side in pretty good fettle.
The wholesale trade has survived and thrived through those periods too and arguably there has been little of note to learn from in 2017. Things could well take a bit of a nosedive in general terms in the next couple of years – perhaps for a bit longer than that, but in the food business, particularly perishable food, there is greater certainty on the demand side than in most other sectors. While the customer landscape is ever-changing, from what I can gather, this hasn’t been a bad year at all for traders across London’s fresh produce markets. Fruit and vegetable consumption is stable, the supply situation fluctuates with the weather, prices are on the floor one day and up in the sky the next (though never high enough or as high as they used to be!) and there are operational challenges at every corner. But when has it ever been any different? And in a trading environment, isn’t it the challenges that really make the job interesting and isn’t it the ebbs and flows that keep the mind’s racing and the cash-flow ticking?
If there is any long-term issue to address, it may just be the supply side that needs bolstering. There has been talk for years of growers and exporters around the world shunning the UK for less demanding and more lucrative markets elsewhere. Last winter, we saw real signals that shortages of certain products could become a reality when the weather hits growing regions and countries we rely on.
Working hard at the supply side of the equation isn’t simple for traders, but neither is it prescient to expect relationships to remain in place without a bit of TLC, however long-standing they are. Shortages can be quite useful for trade, but if there is one thing we can take from the past year, maybe it is that work needs to be done to ensure those manageable shortages don’t get out of hand.