Upcoming conversations will unpick challenges of UK's supply chains
9th March 2023
This week, as Food Waste Action Week urges people to make their food go further, fresh produce shelves in supermarkets lie bare. At the same time, rising food prices and a spiralling cost-of-living crisis are forcing millions of people into hunger and hardship.
Over the next few months, we’ll be examining these complexities and contradictions in our food system, exploring viable ways forward for a more equitable, sustainable supply of food – as well as the challenges found within supply chains across the service, hospitality and retail sectors.
In particular, we want to consider practical and accessible solutions in food access – seeking lessons from other sectors and looking beyond the well-trodden supermarket vs farm shop dichotomy. Is there a middle ground that can chart a practical and radical course for the future, and what does this look like?
This work comes at an important moment. In mainstream media and food and farming circles, the drivers of empty shelves in supermarkets have been hotly debated; changing weather patterns, Brexit, unseasonal consumer demand, a cheap food culture, government policy and just-in-time supermarket logistics have all been blamed – with many citing a combination of factors.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, FFCC Chief Executive Sue Pritchard highlighted that supermarkets in other European countries have been willing to pay higher prices for vegetables in short supply, while British supermarkets have been more focused on keeping prices low.
“It has pushed us right down to the bottom of the queue when those difficult export choices are being made.”
Last week, Sue spoke at CUSP’s Nature of Prosperity dialogue, exploring a future beyond cheap food with leaders in the food sector, chaired by Dr Rowan Williams, with Guy Singh-Watson and Professor Tim Jackson. They explored how food intersects with questions of power, voice and justice – and what needs to happen to transition to a food system that puts health and regeneration ahead of profit.
As food justice moves up the agenda against a backdrop of unprecedented food shortages, food waste and food poverty, what are the broad paths towards fair and sustainable retail supply chains that ensure people can access healthy food in their local area?
And what fresh perspectives are emerging in the independent and convenience store, and regional co-operative sector, that could chart a course to a fairer and more equitable supply of food?
At our next Farming Leadership Group symposium on the 14th of June, we will convene supply chain experts, farmers and leaders in the food and farming sector to carefully consider the complex challenges at the heart of the food system value chain, and the barriers that prevent progress towards a more balanced system.
We’ll also bring the conversation to Groundswell regenerative agriculture festival at the end of June with policymakers, food industry CEOs and farmers – exploring the supply chain challenges currently facing farmers and the exciting solutions that could provide hopeful models for the future of supply chains. And in the run-up to this, we’ll continue our work to facilitate conversations that bring key actors together around critical points in the food system that can trigger practical and radical progress.
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