I DON’T know about you but I’ve been having problems over the last year or so buying tubs of custard powder – the conventional, egg free type which just needs heating with milk and a spoon or two of sugar.

Most stores, small and large, seem to have run out or have periods when they find it difficult to maintain a regular supply, perhaps because they have ruffled the feathers of the main producer over price. However they all seem keen to sell me tins of prepared custard, or sachets containing the same ready made preparation.

I may be reading too much into this but shop assistants tell me that the prepared custard is all the rage and there’s considerably less demand for the powder as folk prefer the ready made stuff to save time and energy, even though it’s more expensive.

This points up a current interesting contrast between the unwillingness of many to make their own food from reasonably basic ingredients and the wall to wall menu of television cooking programmes.

It follows that using up to ten cans of prepared custard, that’s the same as the powder from one tub, means the use of more raw materials, particularly tin plate, and more discarded waste. So buying ready made custard, rather than powder to make it, is going to produce even more CO2 than our own efforts, even allowing for the heating.

Human indolence, therefore, could be one explanation for the scarcity of custard powder but it might also have something to do with the global appetite for maize, the source of custard cornflour.

The world maize demand this century has almost doubled as it’s used to produce the ethanol that’s made the US car fleet the biggest customer, whereas in Brazil, where this bio-fuel is mandatory, it uses sugar cane instead as the raw material.