In the second of the NFWI resolutions to be presented to Sotonettes members for ballot, the revival of British fruit in local communities is discussed.
Sotonettes members are entitled to vote on this issue; for more information, click here, or download a handy booklet here. Or visit our Facebook page!
“This meeting calls on the WI to spearhead a national campaign that creates a fruit revival in local communities, celebrates our WI roots, promotes health, addresses food security and reduces the carbon footprint.”
The proposer’s intention is for the WI to get back in touch with our roots by leading a national campaign to revive the consumption, harvesting, and growing of British fruit. The proposer believes we import too much fruit from abroad while British fruit goes to waste and further, that we lack the skills to grow and preserve our own food meaning that Britons are losing touch with British fruit. This resolution seeks to address those gaps while also promoting food security, healthy eating, responsible environmental stewardship, and community cohesion: core WI values.
Outline of the issue
While the UK currently enjoys a high level of food-security, there are some alarming trends. According to the House of Commons Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs Committee the UK is currently only 68% self-sufficient in foods that can be produced here. This percentage has steadily declined over the last twenty years.
Fruit and vegetables have witnessed the biggest drop in self-sufficiency. For fruit the situation is particularly dire; the UK is only 12% self-sufficient in fruit production. In 2012, the UK imported £8 billion worth of fruit and vegetables and 88% of fresh fruit is imported and that percentage is rising. Most of these imports occur in the out-of-season months (November-June) however for some fruit it remains relatively high even during the height of UK seasonal production.
Fruit production is one key area that experts have identified where the government needs to do more to increase domestic production. However, it is important to note that it would not be in the UK’s interest to become fully self-sufficient in indigenous food as our food security depends on diversity of supply for resilience.
As noted by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, the UK’s food security depends on a vibrant, innovative and professional UK farming sector. A number of surveys highlight the growing skills gap in horticulture. In its 2013 report the Horticulture Matters industry group (formed to tackle the skills shortage) highlighted that 72% of horticultural business surveyed could not fill vacancies, 70% of 18-year-olds thought horticultural careers were only for those who were not academic, and 50% of under-25s saw horticulture as an unskilled career. This is concerning for an industry that is facing an ageing workforce.
In 2012, consumers in the UK wasted 1.1 million tonnes of fruit, making fruit the second largest food category in terms of domestic wastage. Therefore, in addition to not growing our own fruit, we are wasting the fruit we do have, both of which have a negative effect on economic growth and the environment.
Not only is this bad news for British growers, but it is also bad for the consumer in terms of taste and nutritional value. As fruits can spoil during transportation due to handling, packaging, and overall journey time, some experts claim that the modifications made to fruit to help them survive the journey lower their nutritional value and can alter their taste. The number one challenge to our food security is the extreme weather events that are caused by climate change. Therefore a solution to secure our food supply is needed that mitigates those risks as well. The global food industry is one of the largest net contributors to green-house gas emissions and a chief contributor to deforestation. Buying locally grown foods can counter those effects.
Arguments for the resolution
• There is a growing skills shortage in the agriculture and horticulture industry which will have a growing impact on the UK’s food security. The NFWI is best placed to promote a revival of education and engagement in the sector.
• One of the principal outcomes from the WI’s Great Food Debates was that people in the UK have lost their connection to food – how it is grown/produced, how it fits within a healthy diet, and what makes a sustainable environment.
• This resolution is a return to the WI’s roots, and has the potential for WIs across the country to mobilise their extensive local networks to bring community members together to teach new skills in food production and harvesting, learn about healthy eating and environmental stewardship, and contribute to the nation’s domestic food supply.
Arguments against the resolution
• This resolution encompasses a number of issues (food production, food security, healthy eating) that the WI is already working on or has recently worked on. Is this resolution redundant?
• This resolution merges a number of complex issues, which may confuse members and stakeholders.
Groups to contact for further information
Incredible Edible Network
Unit 9, The Town Hall, St George’s Street, Hebden Bridge, HX7 7BY
Tel: 0781 8570177
British Growers Association
BGA House, Nottingham Road, Louth, Lincolnshire, LN11 0WB
Tel: 01507 602427