Food Shortages: What's the story?

Food Shortages: What's the story?

Food Shortages: What's the story?

Worried about food shortages at the moment? We've pulled together all the information you need to know about the problem, and what you can do to try and solve it.

The problem

Most of us nowadays buy our fresh produce, like fruit and vegetables, in supermarkets. Even in you pop in to the local greengrocer every now and then, it's pretty likely that you top up at a big supermarket a few times a week - and that means being part of a huge and complicated system.


That system is a complex supply chain - which have developed very quickly in the last 70 years or so. So quickly, in fact, that they can change daily.

Rather than the traditional way of buying fruit and veg in the centre of a market town, fresh produce is now sourced directly by the supermarkets - sometimes several times a day, from a vast network of warehouses across the world. 

This is why we can have Strawberries in January, and Mangos in March - even though we can't grow them in the UK. This has advantages and disadvantages - sure, the UK is an island and we rely on trade for our economy to grow. However, it does mean that we no longer experience a changing plate with the seasons - and conceivably, no longer the same level of diversity - we just eat the same produce, of the same size and shape, all year round.

As a result of our food supply chains being so complex, it means they're also fragile. So that when issues outside of our control, like poor weather, price increases and transportation at the moment, it can result in empty shelves. The worst thing to do in these situations is to panic buy; there's not a shortage of food. Instead, look to shop local and eat seasonal. Consider meal planning around vegetables grown by British farmers and buying from your local farm shop or greengrocer, where appropriate.

Here's a handy list of seasonal fruit and veg, provided by the Vegetarian Society.

British farmers

Even though we rely heavily on export and trade for a healthier economy, the UL is actually almost 100 per cent self-sufficient in poultry and certain vegetables, according to DEFRA. That's all thanks to British farmers and food producers.

Overall, when it comes to food we can produce here, we are 75% self-sufficient. 

Defra added that the UK also:

  • Produces 88% of all the cereals needed in the UK
  • Is 86% self-sufficient in beef
  • Is 100% self-sufficient in liquid milk
  • Produces more lamb than consumed in the UK
  • Close to 100 per cent self-sufficient in poultry, carrots and swedes
  • Is 90 per cent self-sufficient in eggs


In summary, if you're worried about the food shortages at the moment - the worst thing you can do is panic buy. Instead, look to shop locally and eat as much seasonal veg as possible.