Visiting a local supermarket at the end of February, one might have noticed a lack of certain salad vegetables, and note some looking to the other vegetables which they usually would not consider adding to their baskets.
In recent weeks supermarkets have put limits on the numbers of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers which can be purchased by customers. This has been brought in amidst shortages of salad crops, the majority of which are sourced from southern Europe and North Africa.
Reporting in mainstream media has focused on the causes of the shortages, from poor weather to Brexit, a range of potential causes have been suggested and muddled over.
At Galbraith, we have been considering how moving forward greater food security might be developed to reduce society’s reliance on particular crops. The over reliance of many British diets on a few crops highlights just how little resilience and insecurity our current supply chains and food supplies are, and how they might can be over thrown by small decisions, changes or struggles in the system.
At present these are salad which, although important for the public diet, are not critical. The potential for other, more staple crops such as wheat or corn to be similarly affected is increasingly clear, highlighting the importance of diversity, crops and diets.
You may have paid little attention to the current shortages if you are more a seasonal eater. At present, kale, spring greens, potatoes, carrots, leeks and turnips are all available aplenty and in season.
These are not just tasty but offer financial food security as they provide cheap and nutritious options which are brilliant at this time of year, particularly in the chilly Scottish spring.
In 2022, we reported (pp 34-5 here) on the sustainable food trusts report ‘Feeding Britain’. The recent shortages, whatever their cause, demonstrate where a lack of consideration, respect and appreciation for where our food is produced and by whom, can put us.
Consideration for food security must go back to the source as well as considering the end point. Public diets need to be considered, with focus on eating seasonally and diversely, and balancing this with what might be produced from the natural capital we have available.
Farmers are critical in these consideration and it should not be forgotten that the land available in the UK is imperative in UK food security.
Natural Capital: The expert advisers at Galbraith guide our clients in realising value in all land uses – by assessing and measuring natural assets, furthering opportunities in biodiversity net gain, and ensuring stakeholders are rewarded fully for their investment in and contribution to delivering ecosystem services and net-zero outcomes.