Here at Land Ocean Farm we have a vision that we can play a significant part in reducing the amount
of food imported into the UK. Whilst our focus is solely on aquaculture and producing healthy,
nutrient-dense and pollution-free seafood, we take a keen interest in the wider UK food sector. In
this part two of a three part blog Rasel Mahmud, our Project Leader takes a look at why the UK food
deficit matters and how did we get here.

If you missed the first part of our blog, you can catch up on it here.

Why does it matter?

Aside from the economic and environmental costs of importing such a large and increasing
proportion of our food, a compelling case for trying to tackle this deficit can be based upon assuring
our supplies regardless of external factors. In 2008 the UK saw some crippling food price increases,
ending what had been an extended period of price reductions. Staple items like wheat saw increases
of 130%, soya increased by 87% and rice by 74%. These in turn fed through to increases in on the
shelf increases of between 15% and 40%. This spike in prices was caused by a perfect storm of
external factors including poor harvests, low cereals stocks, rising oil prices, generalised inflation,
export bans and restrictions, restocking in tight markets, reduced import tariffs, and depreciation of
the US dollar!

You also only have to look at last summer and some of the shortages caused by a combination of
Brexit friction and the lorry driver crisis.

The trend of growing proportions of our food coming from overseas is also at odds with consumers
paying increasing attention to their individual environmental impacts. Research has shown that 48%
of UK consumers are aware of the term “food miles”. The major food brand Quorn introduced “farm
to shop” carbon food labelling and many independent farm shops display food miles on their
produce to highlight the difference between homegrown produce and out of UK season imports.
The strength and resilience of the UK supermarket supply chains have been tested like never before
during COVID and following Brexit. Thus far it has largely passed the test, but the industry’s ability to
make up shortfalls in one area by making it up in another hides the true UK situation from consumers
(some would argue a nice problem to have)

International tensions between nations and any resulting sanctions also disrupt certain food
supply chains for example more than a quarter of the world’s wheat exports come from Russia and
Ukraine and 80% of the world’s supply of sunflower oil. The less susceptible we are to these if they
arise has to be a good thing.

How did we get here?

It is all too easy when looking at this subject to brush off the facts as a natural consequence of us
being an island nation with a growing population (both in real terms and density) and the nature of
our climate. This though masks many crucial underlying factors.

Whilst the UK population has grown significantly over the last 30 years, food production has failed to
keep up with this, with the poultry meat industry being one of the few sectors to see substantial
growth. Poultry meat processing in the UK has grown from £4,817 million in 2012 to £6,280 million
in 2022.

Supermarkets in their desperate fight for UK market share, have looked to cater for shoppers
demands for all year-round supply of seasonal items and their appetite for eye wateringly low prices
for key food and vegetable items. The latter has squeezed some UK producers out of the market with
their capacity lost to the market.

Contrary to most peoples’ perceptions 90% of land in the UK is undeveloped. However, the UK
government wants to see 300,000 new homes built a year and much of this will be on land that was
previously used for farming.

The facts around what is called “farm gate” food waste are eye watering. As much as 10-15% of all
food produced in the UK is wasted before it leaves the farm and one estimate suggests that 3 million
iceberg lettuces are wasted per annum because of adverse weather or them not being the desired

In the final part of this three part blog we look at some ways in which the UK can start to narrow the
gap and fix this problem.

Rasel Mahmud
Project Leader
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