New food security warning as climate threatens UK supplies

Climate change may see a host of staple foods removed from UK supermarket shelves a new report has warned.

The Fairtrade Foundation launches its Fairtrade Fortnight with a plea for consumers to do more to support efforts to tackle climate change and protect farmers across the world for the threat of deforestation and urbanisation.

While empty supermarket shelves and stock shortages are becoming increasingly common, the foundation warned that everyday essentials including bananas, coffee and cocoa could be at risk of becoming “endangered” due to climate change.

It prompted the foundation’s CEO, Mike Gidney, CEO to say: “​​It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, because it may not be on our shelves forever.”

The report includes analysis carried out by independent advisors 3Keel, that has identified the environmental risks that could lead to some of the UK’s favourite foods becoming endangered. The report reveals that the supply chains for bananas, coffee, and cocoa originate from countries that are vulnerable to threats caused by climate change, deforestation, and biodiversity loss.

Fairtrade Fortnight, is the annual campaign that raises awareness around the importance of ensuring farmers are given a fair price to cover the increasing costs associated with the climate crisis.

Research revealed significant sections of the British public believe that climate change will affect their weekly shop, with 33% saying they think availability will be affected and 41% stating that it will affect price. However only 38% have made active changes and 23% are not sure how to help. Meanwhile only 16% of those surveyed check the country of origin of all the products they buy.

On chocolate the report warned studies suggest that many cocoa-growing regions in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which produce over half of the world’s cocoa, will likely become too hot to grow the crop by 2050.

In terms of coffee the study found under certain emissions scenarios, as much as 50% of the global surface area currently used for coffee farming may no longer be suitable by 2050, due to the changing climate.

“The land area required to produce the volumes of coffee imported to the UK is on average over 245,000 ha each year,” It explained. “That is a land area about the size of Warwickshire required to grow the coffee to meet UK demand each year.”

Almost half (48%) of UK banana imports (totalling more than half a million tonnes of bananas) originate from countries with high climate change vulnerability.

Caitlin McCormack, 3Keel senior consultant, commented: ‘The UK sources a significant proportion of consumer favourites including bananas, coffee and cocoa from countries that face potential risks to future production, including from changes in the climate and the loss of biodiversity and habitat that provide ecosystem services that are critical to farming. It’s essential that we work with producers in these countries to help them shift to sustainable and resilient methods of production.’

The report added: “While it’s all too easy to assume that our food will always be available, stocked and ready to shop, the reality is not the case. We know how much the public love their chocolate fix, their daily cappuccino and baking that banana bread.

“Over 40% of Brits shared that coffee is the Fairtrade product they would most struggle to live without, followed by chocolate and bananas (both 31%).

“It’s no surprise, then, that nearly two-thirds (60%) of Brits say they would be ‘devastated, annoyed or upset’ if chocolate was no longer available to buy in the UK. Meanwhile, over half (54%) say they would be ‘devastated, annoyed or upset’ if coffee and bananas were no longer available to buy in the UK.

“If challenges including climate change continue to impact and damage farmers’ ability to grow these favourites, these are at risk of disappearing from our shelves.”

Gidney, said: ‘​​It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, because it may not be on our shelves forever. Today, climate breakdown is making it harder and harder to grow food crops, making our food security ever more vulnerable. There is a risk that farmers will have to stop farming. In some worst-case scenarios, certain varieties of the foods they grow for UK consumption could become luxury items. That’s why it’s important that farmers and workers receive a fair price that will enable them to invest in transitioning to sustainable and climate resilient ways of production. We can all do this by choosing Fairtrade. Sustainability doesn’t have to cost the earth.”

“Over 40% of Brits shared that coffee is the Fairtrade product they would most struggle to live without, followed by chocolate and bananas (both 31%).

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