Flight Delays Stall Fresh Veggies To Britain
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
From London, Vicki Barker has this report on an industry that's been disrupted by the volcano.
VICKI BARKER: On an unseasonably warm London afternoon, Gary Butterfield sprays cooling water on vine-ripened tomatoes, pale green fennel bulbs, plump strawberries, papayas and pomegranates. The display tables outside Adamou and Sons Family Grocers are still bulging with produce, but that may change Butterfield says, on his boss's next trip to the wholesale market.
GARY BUTTERFIELD: We're probably going to see some of the things not there that we usually get. We try and get quite a few things from Cyprus, like the herbs, parsley and the coriander, they might not be there. The carob, they might not be there, things like that.
BARKER: Anthony Piles, one of the entrepreneurs whose made that possible - his firm, Blue Skies Foods, flies produce from Africa and South America into 12 airports across Europe, everyday - until the air lanes closed.
ANTHONY PILES: We haven't operated the factories now for almost three days, and we have four of them in Africa and South America focusing their produce on Europe.
BARKER: Three hundred African farmers are dependent on him for their income, Piles says. Now, their goods are rotting in warehouses and new arrivals are being turned away.
PILES: We're the conduit. We are the very narrow conduit through which they have to market their products. So if we have problems, they will have problems.
BARKER: With no cash coming in, he says his company - employing 3,000 people - could go under.
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BARKER: Back at Adamou Family Grocers, Yunas(ph) Adamou adds up a column of figures he's penciled on to a brown paper bag. Adamou knows his customers; well-heeled Londoners, who might deplore the carbon footprint of air shipped foods until they want blueberries on their cereal in mid-winter. He thinks he'll survive the air lane closures and they will too.
YUNAS ADAMOU: No one's going to starve. We're all spoiled for god sake, you know. So it's not a question of famine or anything. It may be a wake up call.
BARKER: For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.
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