Perhaps the only positives to come out of the pandemic have been our sense of community and the realisation that so many jobs in society are truly vital.
The NHS and care workers are at the forefront of that appreciation, but I know for example how proud many of our shop workers have been to wear their “key worker” badges with pride.
And now we realise too how important our lorry drivers and distribution staff are to keeping the whole country moving. Because at the moment there is a crisis in this sector.
Some supermarket shelves are empty, some products are in short supply or not available at all, and we don’t have enough lorry drivers to move goods around.
As with many labour shortages the root cause is the effect of Brexit, as many foreign drivers who used to work in the UK are not able or willing to work here anymore.
But it’s also because the pay is not enough in the sector. It is a tough and demanding job often with unsocial hours but this has not always been reflected in wages.
The government’s answer last week was to lower the standards to qualify as an HGV driver. But I am not happy about that: this is a skilled job that can be dangerous and needs proper training.
At the other end of the food chain, farmers and food manufacturers are complaining that Brexit has meant fewer migrant workers to harvest fruit and vegetables, and to work in the factories making our food. There are even stories of food rotting in fields because it can’t be picked.
Again this is tough, physical work that is traditionally low paid and we have always taken it for granted, probably because it was undertaken by migrants. But if we want people to do this work, we should pay them more to attract them.
All of which means prices will go up – which we were promised would not happen at the time of Brexit.
Then there is the new trade deal with Australia. I was contacted last week by one of our local farmers to discuss the effects of this deal, and they told me how it will badly undercut UK food producers. So food might be cheaper, but UK farming – so important to Cheshire – won’t see the benefit.
I worry we have taken for granted for too long the people who put food on our tables. The government needs to get a grip and sort the distribution crisis before it starts to have a serious impact.