National Food Strategy #3: The global competition for safe, nutritious food

Our horizon scanning project report, Back from the Future, published in January 2018, contained this stark warning: We currently import 40% of our food. But that this food won’t be available in the future.

The “long-term” future we looked at began in 2030, and went through to 2050 — so the beginning only 10 years away. In fact, our horizon scanning process saw the global competition for food as a short-term challenge, a view borne out by more recent assessments about climate change threats.

Here’s a summary of the conversations under each of the three horizons:

2021-2023: Global competition for food, 2008 [financial crash] and Brexit (including the immediate impact in June 2016 of a 10% drop in our exchange rate]). Consolidation in retail and service sectors. Which companies will survive? [in our workshop last week, one of the issues mentioned was the high barriers to entry in the food sector]

Short-term drivers; i.e. to 2023: consumer choice changes (e.g. meat-free, exotic foods), consumer pressure to know provenance & the supply chain, exchange rates, possible restrictions in labour movement, distrust in the stability of the UK market, diversification, reduced risk appetite.

2024-2030: Farmers already uncertain, a problematic future so a lack of planning and investment. Brexit is increasing uncertainty and a lack of confidence. the demographics of the farming community. Variations in production and planning cycles (arable is 5-6 year rotation, broilers in contrast are 30-80-day cycles, top fruit a decade or more). Pace of agri-technologies. Technology & pest control. IT & big data.

Mid-term drivers; ie.e to 2030: Climate change, mass migration, water scarcity & impact on local food systems, land degradation, older population, obesity, growing inequality, Brexit, inflation, labour and skill shortages, rising middle class globally

2030-2050: The nutritional challenge. Water deficiency. Climate change. No-one in primary production makes a living. Pollution. Competition for food. The need for long-term strategy (as China has). The role of logistics and technology.

Long-term drivers 2030-2050: Climate change, extreme weather events, nutrient-deficient soils, pollution of soils, water and air, less agricultural land, energy crisis, more people, geopolitical tensions.

Watch Parveen Mehta, Operation Director of Minor Weir and Willis, talk about the global competition for food in this interview:

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Previous blogposts in this National Food Strategy series are:

#2: Responsibility, resilience and ethics

#1: The brief

A link to our submission is here.    A list of all the blogposts in this series is here.

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