While Aldi and other retailers have for the moment provided fixes to the shortages of fruits and vegetables on their shelves, researchers say more needs to be done to stave off potential gaps in the future.
A new Green Paper released by the University of Warwick purports that UK should be less reliant on other “climate vulnerable countries” for fresh produce and more focussed on boosting farming and production here. They said increased growing and consumption of UK produce not only could help the economy but the environment too.
“The current shortages of fresh food on supermarket shelves demonstrates the high dependence of our diets in the UK on imports,” Professor Richard Napier, Deputy Head of the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, said. “With appropriate support the UK can and should grow much more of our fresh food – vegetables, salads, herbs and fruit.”
In its Green Paper called “Growing British”, which piggybacks on last year’s National Food Strategy, Warwick scientists say the UK could save as much as £0.5bn by leaning more on homegrown fruits and vegetables. But in order to get there, the supply chain model would need to shift and make UK-grown produce 30% of overall consumption over the next decade.
So how could that happen?
“To encourage expansion of the fruit and veg sector in the UK we need to provide and promote new research-led solutions,” Napier said. “The University of Warwick has world-leading research in plant breeding, green energy, automation and solutions for pest and disease management. With improved strategic support, this excellence can provide a clean, green and economically viable future for the fresh food sector.”
Warwick’s own Crop Centre promotes sustainable agriculture, horticulture and food security. Growing British backs a 30% increase in UK consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables by 2032.
Many supermarkets over the past month have been beset by shortages, largely because of weather-related problems in other countries. But labour and logistics also have played a part, forcing retailers to ration certain fruits and vegetables. While that is beginning to subside, the university researchers say steering away from that reliance post-Brexit could be a smart move. They say 16,000 jobs could be created in UK agriculture with change. It is not clear, however, whether UK supermarkets would be able to stock those shelves in off times for produce that cannot be grown during winter months in the UK, for example.