Preparedness for future food shortages: Economic & other factors

These two sets of economic factors are true of any resource shortages, as we’re seeing in the energy supply sector as well as with food supplies:

  • A shortage of any resource can be met by ramping up production (if possible) and/or holding reserve stocks.
    Both depend on changing the economic structure of the market.
  • In a commercial system, when demand exceeds supply, prices will rise.
    • Only those who can afford rising prices can participate in the market.
    • The means to mitigate high prices include raising household incomes, subsidies, other fiscal measures and setting parameters to encourage economies of scale, all of which require policy change at a government level.

These two general points are made more challenging regarding food compared to say, energy supplies because

  1. We all need food every day
  2. Nutrient-dense foods are more expensive than low-nutrient ones
  3. When it comes to reserve stocks, many nutrient-dense fresh produce is highly perishable at ambient temperatures
  4. Just-In-Time (JIT) commercial systems mean retail food reserves are typically 4-7 days-worth.

noteOur scenarios work on buffer stock systems indicates these challenges can be met.

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But meeting these challenges means the socio-political landscape must change with regard to three sets of socio-political factors:

    • A recognition that the UK needs preparedness plans abdoiut what to do on the ground.
    • A change in the traditional but misguided view that hunger is only or mainly about calorie deprivation is widespread. Millions of UK citizens are already experiencing a nutrient famine.
      • Nutrient deprivation is pernicious, as the effects are not immediate. This means it’s easy for policy makers and politicians to ignore what’s happening. By default, the UK has a let them eat (cheap) cake policy. 
    • Decision-makers need a far better grasp of the range and diversity of players in the food supply system; see the video below, or here.

Dover and the Black Sea ports today, where tomorrow?

See also our pre-Covid-19  2019 report on Global Risks to UK food supplies, the last three pages of which are about geopolitical change: p13 (about these chokepoints), page 14 (an arctic shipping route) and page 15 (about the Belt and Road Initiative).

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The Birmingham Food Council is a Community Interest Company registered in England and Wales number 8931789