Research: UK Imports 32% of Fruit and Greens from “Local weather Weak” Nations

Study: UK Imports 32% of Fruit and Vegetables from “Climate Vulnerable” Countries

There is no proven health risk from eating fruits
and vegetables that have been legitimately sprayed
approved pesticides.

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

An LSE study expresses concern that a climate change could lead to price spikes and availability if the UK continues to import food from increasingly diverse sources.

Published: November 9th, 2020

The UK's fruit and vegetable supply is increasingly dependent on imports from climate-damaging producer countries

Pauline F.D. Scheelbeek, Cami Moss, Thomas Kastner, Carmelia Alae-Carew, Stephanie Jarmul, Rosmaringrün, Anna Taylor, Andy Haines and Alan D. Dangour

The contribution of domestic production to the total UK fruit and vegetable supply decreased from 42% in 1987 to 22% in 2013. The impact of this changing pattern of UK fruit and vegetable imports from countries with different vulnerabilities to forecast climate change on the UK food system resilience is currently unknown. Here we used the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) bilateral trade database over a period of 27 years to assess changes in fruit and vegetable supply in the UK and the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) climate vulnerability categories to assess the vulnerability of countries that supply fruit and vegetables to the UK. The variety of fruit and vegetable supplies has increased. In 1987, 21 crops made up the top 80% of all fruits and vegetables shipped to the UK. In 2013 there were 34 harvests. The contribution of tropical fruits has increased rapidly while the contribution of more traditional vegetables such as cabbage and carrots has decreased. The proportion of fruit and vegetables supplied to the UK market from climate-damaging countries rose from 20% in 1987 to 32% in 2013. Sensitivity analyzes using climate and freshwater availability indicators supported these results. Increased reliance on imports of fruit and vegetables from climate-damaging countries could adversely affect the availability, price and consumption of fruits and vegetables in the UK and affect food intake and health, especially the elderly and low-income households. Cross-sectoral action in agriculture, health, the environment and trade is vital in both the UK and countries exporting to the UK to increase food system resilience and promote public health.

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I remember doing grocery shopping in the UK. When I couldn't buy strawberries, I would buy bananas or apples. Or maybe kiwis. It wasn't the end of the world that I couldn't buy strawberries that week.

A long time ago while studying a business unit, I was taught that having multiple independent supply chains for essential products is good because if anything disrupts one of the supply chains, there are many other options that I can fall back on. But I think economic thinking seems to have evolved from this point of view.

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