Covid-19. Corona Virus. Lock-down. Self-Isolate. All terms which, as we tore open our Christmas wrapping only a heartbeat ago, were phrases we’d never heard of. And if we had, well, surely they were things emitting from China which wouldn’t affect us, right? And yet here we are some 12 weeks later. Jobs gone, schools closed, prisoners in our own homes, festivals cancelled, police prohibiting street movement,  rioting in the supermarket aisles…. losing loved ones.

Global problem

I’m writing this from the UK, and around 2 weeks ago I was becoming concerned about how this plague was threatening to affect me trading at festivals this summer and more immediately, at my monthly farmers’ markets. I wanted to know if it was having the same affect on my co-Editors – Kendall in the USA and Bree in Auz. At that point both replied that is was ‘business as usual’ despite being aware of the global rumblings, life was pretty normal. Fast forward 10 days to this week and their story is the same as mine. People’s careers in jeopardy, events falling, lives lost.
So here we are, caught in a truly global pandemic. All of us.

I don’t you about you but I’m kinda dazed by it all. Having to school my 6-yr-old twins at home – when did I become a teacher? Having to rely on others to do my shopping while on lockdown – when did I become incapable of fending for myself? I’ve lost work contracts, and I’ve lost opportunities to trade my Chilli sauces.
What do I do now, how do I provide for my family?
Sadly these questions and scenarios are typical from London to Lisbon, Queensland to Quebec and not native to our industry of course.

We know that chilli has so many good health properties, surely it’d be a thriving industry right now. Surely those aisle-grabbers are clamouring for the hot stuff to ward off the flu. Sod the toilet roll, get yourself some hot sauce. Truth is, even if they were, the supply chain has been hit.

Example: In London, the FT (financial times) reported that China cannot provide enough labour on the farms to cope. And as a major global exporter of things such as Garlic (80%), Ginger (47%) and Chilli (20%), this is causing a bottleneck in production and transport which is hiking up the wholesale prices. So it’s a double whammy – while you and I are not earning money, the things we would actually want to buy in order to continue our businesses are becoming increasingly harder and more expensive  to get.

Hospitality and dining outlets are dying and the event sector has died. Bree announced this week that two of her regions biggest Chilli events have gone as a result of the virus. I know this too well. I work(ed) in publishing, specifically global event guides. Formula 1, MotoGP, World SuperBike to name but a few high profile events to fall foul of the illness. At ground level, whether its motorsport, football or chilli festivals –  if there are no events, there are no crowds; if there are no crowds, there are no Programmes required.

That same domino affect is true throughout our chilli industry, if we can’t get the supply – or cant afford its increased prices – then we don’t make chilli products, and we don’t have chilli events.

Of course the additional prohibition to us is that even if we had a boundless supply of ingredients, we are not allowed within a couple of metres of another human, so shoulder-to-shoulder festival bustle and face-to-face salesmanship are a no-no. Interestingly a great article in French publication Le Gorafi recently argued that a dirty doner kebab laced with chilli sauce and pickled chillies would be a superb deterrent of human interaction – who wants to stand on a bus or tube train next to someone chomping through one of those, it quipped.

It seems there’s little we can do but ride this out so let’s keep positive. Strength in adversity and all that. We’re a hardy bunch, us chilli heads. Maybe you’ve got your own contingency in place.

Personally if I come out of this with a healthy wife & kids (who may or may not have actually learned anything) and roof over my head, then I’ll be happy.

And when we do come out the other side, I’m hoping there will then be a glut of festivals fighting for traders and that there will still be some of us small independent businesses who have survived to occupy the corridors of gazebo’s and welcoming the ever-faithful chilli audiences to our exhibits.

We want to hear from you.

Has the Corona Virus affected your business? What are you doing to compensate/supplement your chilli business?