Early in 2023 the great tomato shortage hit the UK and the press whipped the country into a frenzy. At the time I was watching Jeremy Clarkson’s highly entertaining series on his attempts to be a farmer and the two events coalesced into the realisation that the UK is not paying attention to food security. It’s a horrible phrase in itself but I do believe that climate change (yes I am one of those and no I am not woke) is going to force each and every country to assess its ability to feed its population.
As I write this India has already stopped the export of its rice to the world while Russia is doing its best to disrupt wheat supplies. Food security will become an even bigger issue soon as dramatic weather will cause crop failures, shortages and losses of harvests all of which will mean increased costs caused by scarcity. It’s not a future I relish but it made me reassess a future in the UK.
Added to this were increasing reports of watercourses damaged by uncontrolled releases of sewage into them. Not only rivers but the sea seemed to be suffering from regular discharges of untreated sewage. These two events led me to think long and hard about the future. I realised that while many EU countries are considered to be food secure, the two countries in Europe that probably won’t experience food security issues once the weather is taken into account are Portugal and possibly the Netherlands. Both are countries have long histories of food production with the latter having some of the most innovative farming methods in the world which probably means that the weather will not be such a major issue for them to adapt to. Portugal which has a sunnier climate is less sophisticated but no less productive. It seemed that even with climate change and loss of crops, the incredible productivity of the country will result in slightly less food but there will still not be the kind of shortages that other less diversified farming countries might experience.
I researched Portugal’s water and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it pays attention to water quality with a 98.06% ranking for the quality of tap drinking water. It also ranks in the top 33 countries that are considered to have water security (United Nations Water Security assessment 2023). Even if the cost of maintaining these levels is an issue and the figures dip slightly we are still talking very high and acceptable levels of water management. The Netherlands I should add performed even better on water but it’s too crowded for my tastes even though the people are lovely.
Of course I had seen the wonderful photos of Portugal but I did not choose the country because of the beguiling images on social media but rather because in some not too distant future I believe it will be a country where the very hard work that its inhabitants have put into making it a safe water, food secure and peaceful haven will result in a place where tomatoes will not disappear from the shelves and sewage will not foul the water I drink. That is the reason I chose to move to Portugal and I am very content with the decision despite the fact that the language continues to confound me. In the spirit of the pragmatic Portuguese people I am persisting with trying to master the language in the hope that one day I will be able to order something more than a bag of fresh tomatoes in Portuguese at the local market.
Until that day arrives I have Sara of Welcome to Portugal to hold my hand through every linguistic and other challenge I encounter. Water and food security considerations notwithstanding I could not manage to do the transition to Portugal without her help. I have discovered it’s relatively easy doing research and making decisions but it’s infinitely harder implementing them without a command of the Portuguese language and someone who knows how to navigate the system. If I have one piece of advice based on my experience it is don’t even attempt to do it yourself. Moving country isn’t easy so let someone else who knows and understands your challenges help you. You will not regret it, I certainly don’t.
Jeremy Lunn, August 2023