There is an amazing visual mapping (and narrative) of global trade and shipping routes here
The visualization shows the huge number of container, cargo and other shipping vehicles moving around the world at any one time, including the vast amounts of CO2 emissions that go with all this traffic. Shipping routes such as the English Channel, the Suez and Panama canals are major highways! It would be great to see how much of this is food related.
Joanna Blythman brings attention to problems in Mexican communities associated with the growth in demand for avocados in an article in the UK Guardian. She points to deforestation, introduction of pesticides and fertilisers, and depleting water tables as some of the outcomes as local farmers (and drug cartels) are drawn to this new and lucrative business. Joanna Blythman goes on to suggest there is a need to balance exotic imports, such as avocados, against other more locally grown food commodities that provide similar nutritional benefits. This reminds me of another publication, written by Ethel del Pozo-Vergens and Bill Vorley of IIED, that looks at other issues affecting choice between global or local food chains, including which are better at delivering food security and safety, decent employment, protecting the environment and contributing to economic growth.
You can read the IIED publication here
I was just reminded about the US Project for Public Spaces (PPS) by a blog on their markets’ training which champions public markets’ huge range of benefits, showing how they help tackle issues facing urban and rural neighborhoods by strengthening local identity, creating healthy and accessible places that act as food hubs, and boosting local economies. The blog features markets in New York City and has some great photographs and info. This ranges from the wholesale Chelsea Market, to the outdoor, seasonal Hester Street Fair, to plans for redevelopment of the Essex Street Market.
Links to other areas of the PPS website are a feature for those interested to know more.
Tom Rawstorne writes in the UK Daily Mail about the age of food sold in UK supermarkets – apples can be up to 12 months old, fish can be up to two years old, fresh salad and vegetables can be up to 3 weeks old. This all comes down to new and improved technologies that chill, store and treat fresh food to extend its life. The article discusses how much nutritional quality is retained through these technologies and treatments. Such revelations can only boost the case for shopping for fresh food on markets.
The UK Guardian has a good article on farmers’ concerns about the future of British strawberries and other seasonal fruit post-Brexit. This looks at how the industries will survive if bans are introduced on EU migrant workers. The NFU (National Farmers’ Union) is seeking urgent talks with the Brexit minister, David Davis, to discuss special measures for migrant seasonal workers. You can read the full article here
If you don’t already know the website follow-the-things ( ‘a database of work making ‘real’ hidden relations between producers & consumers of everyday things’ ) – it’s worth taking a look.
Arla foods launched a new initiative with supermarket chain Asda on 12 July. This gives shoppers the opportunity to pay an extra 25 pence on a four-pint carton of both semi-skimmed and full fat milk. The extra 25p will be returned directly to the farmers in the corresponding co-operative grouping. The initiative is based on research that said 63% of shoppers asked, would be happy to pay more for milk if they knew the extra cost would be returned to farmers in this way.
However, as previously reported on this blog, and more recently in the local press:
“Milk prices have been at unsustainably low prices for several months now, leaving the prices paid to farmers by processors well below the cost of production.
Official Government figures show that the average farm gate milk price in May was 20.44p, which represented a fall of 1.13p or 5.3 per cent on the previous month, and which is some 10p below the 30p per litre level which is considered to be the break-even point for dairy farmers.”
In these challenging times, if feedback from Asda’s customers suggests that they are prepared to pay more, why should the additional cost of milk be a matter of choice by the customer, with no additional burden carried by the supermarket? If all Asda customers pay more for their milk, this would provide far more support for hard-pressed dairy farmers and pave the way for other supermarkets to follow their lead; this really would make this a ‘sustainable business’ initiative by Asda.
Although it is far too soon to understand the full implications of Brexit on UK food – here are a couple of links to some first thoughts. The first is from Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University London featured in yesterday’s UK Guardian:
The second, aimed at the grocery sector, is from the industry research group, IGD: