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A fruitful solution to the UK’s food security problem

Posted: 17 December 2020 | | No comments yet

Thomas Bradley from off-grid energy supplier, Flogas, explains why rural living practices could be the key to improving food security within the UK.

growing your own food could be key to improvng food security

Food security, put simply, is the state of having reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food. While the UK benefits from a successful agricultural industry, many domestic and international factors affect food production and prices for consumers. This became evident during the world’s 2008 food price spike.

A successful agricultural industry gives the perception that food security isn’t at risk in the UK, but the country is only around 58 percent self-sufficient. The UK is reliant on imports from countries all over the world;1 this has caused a trade deficit of £24 billion in food.

The severity of this situation has been magnified by the uncertainty of Brexit, with a no-deal agreement bad for security and business.2 The recent pandemic has also made it harder to import foods from global locations, and food that is shipped over is taking longer in transit.

Lockdown restrictions have also put immense pressure on farmers and food producers, who now need to find a way to bounce back from the pandemic crisis. Here, we explore how living rurally could help the UK’s food security problem.3

The current climate

Around 84 percent of fruit and 46 percent of vegetables consumed in the country are imported.4 While Brexit and COVID-19 threaten a steady supply to urban areas, problems created by climate change also risk disrupting imports of food from abroad.

Climate change can reduce global food access and affect its quality.5 An increase in temperature, change in precipitation patterns, extreme weather events, and reductions in water availability can result in reduced agricultural productivity.

For those living in a rural location, the opportunity to grow fruit and vegetables in allotments, gardens and other accessible land not only gives people a fresh supply of food when they need it, but also a chance to be part of something bigger — helping to increase food security.

Grow your own, off-grid  

To grow fruit and vegetables, ample space and good quality soil are required. Although it might not be possible to grow bananas or pineapples due to average UK temperatures, apples, pears and strawberries can be on the menu.

Apple trees are probably the easiest fruit trees to grow and one of the most popular with gardeners. Thousands of varieties can be produced, but they tend to fall into two categories — either dessert or cookers, with the latter perfect for cooking with. Some are even-dual purpose.

Pears also follow a similar growth pattern to apples and don’t fall far from the tree. Strawberries also easy to grow and can even be produced from hanging baskets.

Homegrown strawberries are delicious and prove to be great value compared to shop-bought equivalents. Just remember they need sun, shelter, and fertile soil to thrive.

strawberries are commonly grown in the UK

Strawberries are grown up and down the UK – so why not in your back garden?

In the world of vegetables, the humble potato is a popular choice for growing on home [UK] soil. Versatile as chips, roast potatoes and mash, an ample supply of spuds whenever you need them is a great way to reduce the reliance on farmer and supermarket supplies.

In fact, everything from chilli peppers to radishes can be grown at home, giving people in rural areas a wide variety of vegetables to choose from. To help people learn how to grow their own, the Royal Horticultural Society has an A-to-Z list6 of fruit and vegetables on their website, as well as guides on how to grow them.

Not only can fruit and vegetables provide a good food source, but it can turn into a regular hobby or side-project, especially for people who have been furloughed, work part-time, or are retired. Produce could be sold to local people, local suppliers and even restaurants who want to feature local produce on their menu.

Home gardening can play an important role in advancing food security during and after the pandemic. It can also strengthen the provisioning of the UK food ecosystem. Although homegrown fruit and vegetables aren’t the definitive answer for improving the 58 percent self-sufficient rate, it’s a good start for those living off-grid. Something that could just be a hobby helps to put more food on the table without the reliance on imports or straining supply chains.

References

  1. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/ulsterbusiness/features/keeping-it-local-and-sustaining-our-food-supply-from-michelin-starred-restaurants-to-our-farmers-on-the-ground-39738517.html
  2. https://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Article/2020/10/16/PM-Boris-Johnson-s-no-deal-Brexit-warning-bad-for-food-security https://www.flogas.co.uk/
  3. https://foodfoundation.org.uk/covid_19/monitoring-imports-of-fruit-and-veg-into-the-uk/
  4. https://archive.epa.gov/epa/climate-impacts/climate-impacts-agriculture-and-food-supply
  5. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own

About the author 

Thomas Bradley is a copywriter for Flogas, with over seven years’ communications and copywriting experience. He has extensive experience within the food, energy and construction industries.   

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