Global food security is set to be one of the top items on the menu as the G8 countries gather this week in Italy, where they will discuss ways to encourage investment in farming in the developing world.
And it’s not just in emerging economies that food is an issue – here in the UK the food price inflation of recent months has brought home just how much the price of our daily bread is at the mercy of global markets.
The question of how we produce, sell and consume food strikes a chord with everybody – not just farmers and supermarkets – as our very lives depend on it after all.
So when a local farm is forced to uproot five acres of orchard and send 30 tonnes of Worcestershire-grown apples to rot, it is not only heartbreaking for the farmer concerned but also raises questions about how skewed our food chain has become given that the UK imports an enormous 95 per cent of its fruit.
Mark Giles, who runs Array Fruit Farm in Bromsgrove, said he was forced to take the drastic action because the number of traditional buyers of his produce – independent fruiterers and greengrocers – has dwindled in the face of the rapid advance of supermarkets. But supermarkets are not solely to blame – they are after all responding to demand for cheap, uniform (and as a by-product often flavourless) fruit.
The rise of farmers’ markets has shown that if shoppers care enough about quality and about supporting local growers, they are prepared to pay extra for it.
Local shops and local food are interdependent – when one goes, the other will follow.
Without the conscious decision by the consumer to vote with their wallets, small-scale growers don’t stand a chance and we look set to lose even more of these vital links in our local food chain.