We’ve all seen the headlines and pictures of empty supermarket shelves, an unprecedented sight in the UK. Shortages of imported foods are the result of world political and economic events, as well as the ongoing energy crisis and weather-related disruption. We understand that importing food is a challenge but why are shops empty of British food and how can we prevent future shortages?
Shouldn’t us Brits be buying and eating at least a minimum percentage of food from local farms and producers? At Quattro we’re supporting businesses in the food sector in appealing to the government to act urgently to secure a supply of homegrown foods. We have a responsibility to create food security for future generations of both consumers and producers.
One of the main barriers to the success of British producers is the lack of government subsidies to help with their spiking energy costs. Unfortunately, they have been left out of the national plan to help businesses affected by the cost of living crisis. The National Farmers’ Union has called on the government to “back British food production in order to secure a homegrown supply of sustainable food or risk seeing more empty shelves in the nation’s supermarkets.”
Offering consumers local options requires robust support for our farmers and producers by increasing subsidies and tax breaks and investing in research and development to improve yields.
Whilst many supermarkets are rationing fruit and vegetables, there are thousands of farmers across the country with stock to offer. Family farmers and growers are producing ingredients in the countryside, so why are they not reaching supermarkets? It’s a conundrum that can be solved with clever planning. We’re now in crisis and it’s time for those with influence to take action to ensure that the government increases support to UK food producers.
We love our vegetables from far-flung places including countries like Spain and North Africa. Or maybe we’ve simply been conditioned to imagine that the tomatoes taste like sunshine. Do we glamourise foreign produce and imagine it’s exotic, when actually locally grown fruit and veg can be equally delicious, with flavours more intense as they have less distance to travel. And of course, reducing carbon footprint is a priority for most businesses.
We produce over half the vegetables we consume domestically, but only 16% of fruit. The rest we import from Europe, Africa and the Americas but since Brexit, importing has become more expensive due to customs processes and paperwork, leading to delays at borders and produce with shorter shelf life often simply doesn’t survive. If we rely less on food imports, and reduce our need for food from abroad we can encourage consumers to buy more seasonal and locally grown produce.
The UK could extend seasonal worker programs so that migrant workers can work on farms during peak harvesting seasons, ensuring that crops are picked in a timely manner, reducing food waste.
Investment in improving infrastructure and logistics, like port capacity and rail links would make it easier and more cost-effective for food to be transported from farms to shops.
We have lots of work to do, and with the support of those in power we can make a real difference across the length of the supply chain.
Let’s keep working towards helping producers, retailers and consumers by improving the industry from the inside out to reduce costs and address food waste.