A farm-to-fork resilient curry trade?

A new project will support more sustainable models for Bangladeshi catering businesses.

14th June 2022

Curry houses are a much-loved feature of the UK’s hospitality sector. But Bangladeshi business owners are facing multiple challenges, including demographic and economic issues now compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit. Scarcity of labour and rising costs are putting at risk the viability of small and medium enterprises within the sector. Up until recently, the curry house trade has provided a modicum of security for a community that faces multiple disadvantages. Urgent action is required if this much-loved British institution is to survive, and the potential knock-on effects on others along the food supply chain are to be mitigated.

In response to the need to develop more sustainable business models, FFCC is collaborating with the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) at Aston University to offer a fully-funded PhD opportunity focusing on building resilience into food systems.

The successful PhD candidate will build on Aston University’s existing relationships with Bangladeshi restaurateurs and caterers in the UK and foster the development of sustainable business models through bringing together a broad base of stakeholders, from across the food supply chain and wider food ecosystem, who all have an important role to play in the conversation. This will involve engaging with producers (farmers and growers), processors, distributers, restaurateurs/caterers, and those who buy their end products, through knowledge sharing and learning.

While the distribution, hotels and restaurants sector in the UK largely comprises ethnic minorities, with the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group having a higher percentage of workers in the sector than any other ethnic group (30.7%), in contrast, farming in the UK is predominantly white, with 1% of the population owning 50% of the land and 98.6% of farm managers and holders being White-British. There is often very little communication from one end of a food supply chain to the other, that is, from farm to fork. This research project is one way to address the disconnect, to create space for open dialogue and people coming from different parts of the food supply chain to explore what the future could hold.

The project, which starts in October 2022, will be supervised by Professor Monder Ram, the Director of CREME and member of FFCC's Research Advisory Group, and a leading authority on small business and ethnic minority entrepreneurship research.

The findings arising from this project will be used to influence critical policy decisions on key issues such as productivity and sustainability of our food systems in the context of Brexit and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.