New report warns of ‘triple challenge’ to food security in Wales
A new report published by Public Health Wales has warned of the potential impact Brexit, the Coronavirus pandemic and climate change could have on food security in Wales.
The paper forms part of a series of reports from PHW that highlight how this “triple challenge” could affect the future health and wellbeing of the population.
Focusing on the key areas of food availability and accessibility, the report says the outset of the pandemic highlighted the effects that consumer behaviour can have on food supplies as panic buying and stockpiling pushed food supplies towards an unstable situation.
The paper also warns that panic buying exposed the UK’s over reliance of ‘just in time’ deliveries and imported food and other products.
Despite little evidence of food supply chains being dramatically affected by the “triple challenge” currently, during the pandemic, constraints on the transport of particular types of food to market restricted supply as items such as airfreighted fruit and vegetables have experienced disruption as a combination of the EU withdrawal and the pandemic has been exacerbated by a shortage of HGV drivers, the report notes.
In addition, it says climate change has highlighted additional challenges for food supply in both the short and long term, with extreme weather events having the potential to affect global food production, trade and supply chains, making prices more volatile and / or altering productivity in the long-term.
The report concluded that combined with Brexit and the potential impact of climate change, the importance of shorter supply chains to maintain food security has been revealed by the pandemic which also has the ability to disrupt global supply chains. For example, cereal exporting countries could reduce their level of exports, or be affected by lack of harvesters and this could cause a crisis in countries heavily reliant on this produce and shortages in others such as the UK
Liz Green, Consultant in Public Health, Policy and International Health at Public Health Wales, and one of the report’s authors said: “The whole population is affected by food security to some degree, but vulnerable population groups will be particularly impacted negatively including those on low incomes, women, families with children, farmers, fishers and those who live in areas of deprivation.
“The Triple Challenge has already, and will continue to have, major, multifaceted and inequitable impacts on population groups across Wales which has highlighted the need to address this issue and explore it in more depth. The three core pillars of food security comprise of availability, access and utilisation of food.”
She added: “Wales does not have its own separate food system. It is shaped by wider international, national and local policies such as trade, the economy and environmental sustainability which interact in a complex and multidimensional way and present a series of ‘unknown unknowns’ for policy makers and health and wellbeing.
“However the present situation provides an opportunity for Wales and the UK to rethink food policy and supply including looking at ways which will be good for environmental sustainability, for example, shorter supply chains could mean less packaging, processing and reduced food miles and could strengthen the importance of Welsh farmers in the UK food system.
Evidence suggests this may have a knock-on impact on diet and health behaviours as people adapt to buying more seasonal and locally produced food.”