On the New Year, I wrote about the possibility of Ukraine being invaded. How I wish the sources I had read were false! That such a proud and resourceful people should be subjected to such a useless and vicious war is a tragedy closer to Greek mythology than to our time.
I was transfixed by the report because I have a very close friend who is Russian. Just before the war started, we talked, and he said it was highly unlikely that Putin would invade because almost all Russians claim kinship with someone in Ukraine.
He has Ukrainian ancestry, and after the invasion began he was like a broken man, speaking of “that man” – that is, Putin – in the most derogatory terms. I was, and still am, scared for him because such language can put you in jail for 15 years and Russian prisons are not welcoming places. He, like many of his fellow citizens, is trying to leave Russia because there is no place for reasonable people in a society that does not allow dissent.
During this time the Russians tried to take kyiv and we all prayed that its citizens would resist in such terrible circumstances. With incredible bravery they did, and the Russians withdrew.
Now here is the point that brings this into our fish world. Within four days of the Russian withdrawal, I was amazed to learn that kyiv was once again looking to source salmon from Loch Duart! Now, how utterly amazing is that? The resilience of people facing some of the darkest times you can imagine is quite breathtaking. So before continuing, here are the Ukrainians, their fight, their courage and their unwavering determination to keep their country to them.
The war has greatly disrupted the global economy, but some things remain the same. China’s dominance of almost everything continues, and until the West decides to start producing things again, we’ll be giving our money to someone else.
What has become more evident is the impact of Ukraine’s severely disrupted agriculture. Wheat supply is going to be hit hard and this will affect Europe, because we have already imported a lot from Ukraine, not only wheat, but also rapeseed and other oilseeds. It was heartening to see Ukrainian farmers still trying to sow their fields, as it gives hope for the future. Who knows who will benefit from this production, in these terrible times.
Supply and demand
I’m not versed enough to predict the consequences of a long war, but there are some things that are macro enough for most people to accept their probability. The first, which we have already seen, is that things will become more expensive both in terms of costs for companies but also in terms of sales. Initially, this is likely to improve profitability, but of course the costs will trickle down and this will undoubtedly put pressure on profits.
It is more interesting to try to estimate how the general restriction of food supply will affect world markets and therefore world food prices.
Typically, the UK is cutting beef and mutton production, not in response to calls for cuts in meat production, but more because of concerns about the government’s reaction to mounting pressure from self -called environmentalists. Like salmon farming, cattle farming requires a long-term commitment and herd reductions cannot be reversed in a short time. So once the government starts to touch agriculture and aquaculture, the effect on the food market could be very dramatic and long lasting. Much like Ukrainian wheat production, the decline in beef production will affect demand for alternative products, especially in terms of protein, which can’t be a bad thing for seafood consumption.
Seafood prices are doing extremely well right now, as I know the hard way from visits to my local fishmonger. By the way, isn’t it wonderful that the doommongers who said that all fishmongers would close are completely wrong! In fact, supermarkets have a harder time selling fresh seafood, with the exception of salmon, and I guess that’s mainly because of market volatility.
I’m sure there will be those who will say it’s because people don’t want to eat it. If that’s true then why does John Dory cost £42.00 a kilo at my local fishmonger? Oh, and it wears out incredibly quickly.
So while there is terror and destruction in one part of the world, there is always another way of looking at it. To quote an old adage “It’s an evil wind that does no one any good!”