If you live in the UK – or at least parts of it – you will have noticed that some salad vegetables and fruits are in short supply at the moment. There are a variety of reasons for this. The cost of living crisis meaning that some growers are finding it impossible to make a living, and so have stopped growing food.
But there are other reasons too, primarily climate change and some pretty poor policy decisions by our Government. We simply import too much of our food – and we must find ways to change that.
Take a look at this picture below – contrasting the veg aisles of a supermarket in the UK, and one in the Ukraine during this month. I find it remarkable that Kherson, which is pretty much on the front line of the war, and is being shelled daily can manage to pull this off, when we in the UK cannot, and are having to ration supplies!
Something is seriously broken, as Chris Packham points out below. Another remarkable photo, of a little jar of pears – which were grown in Argentina, shipped to Thailand for packing, and then imported to the UK.
A report has just come out this month by the Schumacher Institute. It highlights eight areas of risk we now face in the UK as a result of what I call the meta-crisis. You can read the whole report here:
Embracing the future – plenty we can do! – Seeding Our Future
As well as the eight, it mentions an additional four. Here are all twelve:
They are, in no particular order:
- Food Insecurity
- Water Insecurity
- Extreme Weather
- Bio-diversity Loss
- Health & Wellbeing
- Broken Energy System
- Systems Failure
- Rising Inequality
- Social & Political Unrest
- Climate Refugees
This blog focuses on Food Insecurity.
Here are some facts you may not be aware of:
- The six big areas of the world (bread-baskets) all overlap with the biggest climate challenges. Most countries rely on grain imports from these areas.
- Harvests around the world are already weakened by climate change, and the threats look to be worsening in 2024, with the effects of El Nino during 2023.
- One of the biggest problems behind food insecurity and cost of living crisis is not currently lack of food – it is our trade system/market speculation!
- It’s estimated that £14.23 can be added to the UK’s weekly shopping basket – just due to climate change impacts. (ECIU). This figure doesn’t include the cost of food inflation, which is currently 16%.
- There has been a massive drop in wheat production during 2022 because of drought.
- The big 3 Supermarkets increased their profits by 97% during pandemic.
- 10.5 million adults in UK are ‘food insecure’. In fact, it’s probably worse than that, because these numbers are calculated by measuring food-bank use only. This doubled in 2022.
- We only grow 16% of the fruit we eat in the UK, even though the UK is ideal for growing fruit.
- Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales (the devolveds) are actually quite a bit better than England, because of policy differences.
- There are SIXTEEN government departments involved in food –and, as you can imagine, it’s incredibly complicated.
- The minister responsible for food security in the UK, Mark Spencer, has made it clear repeatedly that he is not interested in either defining or measuring food security. And there’s a definite ‘non-interventionist’ vibe: the minister seems unwilling to take any particular action or change policy in any way.
- The grain we grow in the UK mostly goes to animal feed, but a whopping 33% of it goes to produce ALCOHOL, mostly for trade.
- According to Cadence Roundtable there’s anecdotal evidence that people are turning off their fridges overnight to save on energy costs, with increased risks of salmonella and the like. https://cadenceroundtable.org.uk/
- As we get wetter and warmer conditions, there is a rapidly growing risk of mold (sometimes called “Farmers’ Lung”). This rise in moisture in our buildings – even our own homes – is very dangerous, and Met Office has highlighted this as a problem we will see getting worse.
Here are some other links:
Cascading Climate Impacts: The Future of Food (socialsimulations.org)
FSA 22-06-09 Household Food Insecurity: main report | Food Standards Agency
The irony is that we had a bumper harvest last year. I turned 35 lbs of green tomatoes into chutney. Tomatoes were still being picked in late November as were cucumbers. Raspberries were still being picked in Kent in December.