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What's Wales without leeks? Shortage feared on national day

AFP logo AFP 25/2/2021 AFP
A Welsh rugby supporter shows his allegiance, sporting a leek and a daffodil, the nation's national flower © FRANK PERRY A Welsh rugby supporter shows his allegiance, sporting a leek and a daffodil, the nation's national flower

Farmers in Britain warned Thursday of a potential shortage of leeks, long synonymous with Wales, as the country gets set to celebrate its national day.

St David's Day, which falls on Monday this year, is a day to celebrate all things Welsh, notably the usually abundant leeks that find their way into an array of traditional meals.

But the winter crop is in short supply this year, partly a result of cold temperatures, according to the British Leek Growers' Association.

But it is also thanks to the leek's central role in Welsh comfort food -- think leek and potato soup or leek pie -- making it a staple during the coronavirus pandemic, with more people cooking at home.

Sales have surged by 15 percent, and suppliers are being forced to import leeks from countries such as the Netherlands to "fill the void" and meet St David's Day demand, said the association's chairman, Stewart Aspinall.

"There should be leeks on the shelves, but if people want to keep eating them they might not be able to find British ones," he said.

"And it's at a time when the vast majority of the population are looking to buy more locally sourced produce rather than international ones with a higher carbon footprint."

The leek's symbolic link with Wales is believed to date back to the times of the Druids, centuries before the Romans invaded Britain.

In William Shakespeare's play "Henry V", the king tells Welsh warrior Fluellen that he is wearing a leek "for I am Welsh, you know, good countryman".

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