Category Archives: News
According to statistics from the ONS, visitor numbers to the UK are slightly down year on year by about 2%; with 2.9 million overseas visits in March 2019.
However, 2018 was a record-breaking year in terms of tourists so the figures are not in any way alarming.
Between January and March 2019, there were 7.8 million inbound visits to the UK. This is just 1% below the inbound visits in the same period in 2018. Overall, overseas visitors to the UK spent £22.7 B in the twelve months to March 2019. This is down a more worrying 8% compared to the previous twelve-month period.
In June and July, tourism gave a huge boost to the economy with the hosting of the Cricket World Cup. Hampshire County Cricket Club hosted five matches in the long-awaited tournament. This brought a total of £18.3 million to Southampton alone. While Birmingham is predicted to generate a staggering £32.1 million from the tournament.
Many of the fans have travelled from Pakistan and India to watch the cricket. The recent India versus Pakistan match witnessing a staggering 750,000 applications for the 26,000-seat stadium. The importance of sporting global events in terms of boosting the economy cannot be underestimated.
At the end of June, the government announced a deal to prepare Britain for an extra 9 million visitors per year. This is heralded as a major boost for the pub and hospitality sectors in particular. A Hospitality and Tourism Skills Board will be created to promote and market hospitality jobs as viable career options. A three-year industry led skills and recruitment campaign will also be funded.
In addition, local tourism zones will be created alongside a new business events strategy and more investment in infrastructure. The deal will also support the creation of 10,000 new apprenticeships for anyone building a career in tourism or hospitality.
Hospitality sector trade body UK Hospitality hailed it as a landmark moment as chief executive, Kate Nicholls explains. “This sector deal marks a tremendous moment for all of us in the hospitality, tourism and leisure industries. The move will be absolutely critical in changing the perception of the sector within Government and the wider public opinion, and acknowledges hospitality is key to the country’s economic growth.”
The Rise of Chinese Visitors
Finally, China’s rising wealth has resulted in a huge growth of tourism abroad, making Chinese people the world’s most abundant tourists. A new travel trends study by TripAdvisor reveals that travellers from China have shown one of the biggest increases in views of UK destinations, with an increase of 133% in Chinese travellers.
“Overall, these results are great news for the UK hospitality industry – we’re seeing real growth in interest from many countries and resoundingly good reviews from travellers,” said Fabrizio Orlando, industry relations manager, TripAdvisor.
Summer is well and truly upon us with the seasonal sporting tournaments reaching their conclusions and the temperatures finally rising. This means that eateries are eagerly anticipating a rising number of visitors; and with competition fierce, new restaurant food trends are emerging to give restaurants the edge over their competitors.
As expected, due to the barbeque season, there have been price increases in home-produced lamb, beef and poultry. France has shown unexpected interest in UK lamb and imported beef is in shorter supply. As a result, suppliers are advising alternative cuts. These not only make use of the whole animal but are representing better value.
With crab prices high, due in part to a high demand from China, native lobsters are being perceived as at an interesting alternative. Native king scallops have taken over from queen scallops, which should be avoided due to sustainability issues.
The berry season in Britain has got off to a flying start with excellent growing conditions. With the tradition of Wimbledon, strawberries have come into their own followed by raspberries, blueberries and blackberries as crops ripen. Some restaurants are using fresh berries to flavour and garnish cocktails and other fancy drinks as well as incorporating them into desserts.
As far as vegetables are concerned, Jersey Royal potatoes are extremely good quality and value this year. This is a relief after the weather adversely affected last year’s overall potato crop.
Mushrooms have, well, mushroomed in popularity with a range of varieties available across the summer. Morels, St George’s and puffballs are joined by the Scottish-grown girolle mushrooms which are due in season in August, bringing a fresh and fruity tang to dishes.
Vegan Tops All
Millennials introduced us to the term influencers and as a genre, they are responsible for a change in tastes. Compared with a year ago, customers are looking for healthier options, driven by millennials.
One restaurant chain that has seen this change is Greene King, with boss Nick Mackenzie explaining that veganism is becoming increasingly popular in his pubs. He says: “it isn’t just millennials but on a wider basis consumer trends are shifting. Most of our menus have vegan options and healthy eating is a big part of it. The trend in veganism is one that will continue.”
On the theme of veganism, a few hitherto unknown items are hitting the headlines. Watch out for aquafaba, the liquid drained from a can of chickpeas that used to go down the drain and is now whipped into an egg replacer for baked goods and sauces. Or in the chocolate mousse pictured.
Meanwhile America is going nuts over the health benefits of tea made from avocado leaves. Whether or not this will take off over here remains to be seen; but the beauty spotting potential restaurant foods trends is some never get beyond a fad.
A fun quiz to start this week triggered by the question what’s in season now. The answer is at the bottom of the page.
- Who represented Ireland more than once at the Eurovision Song Contest in the 1980s?
- What bird does anserine refer to?
- Which actor had the starring role in Walker, Texas Ranger?
- Finally, what one word links these answers? Read on for clues!
Now, what’s in season currently? It’s a good time for asparagus, basil and beetroot which are reaching their prime in terms of ripeness and taste. Carrots and courgettes are at their best over the next two months and we are beginning to see blackberries and blackcurrants ripen.
Artichokes and cherries are coming along nicely as are broad beans and broccoli, not to mention the seasonal favourites of redcurrants and raspberries.
One berry that may not be very well known is the tayberry which should be ready for picking by the end of July. Similar to the loganberry, the tayberry is a cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry.
Cone-shaped, it has a strong aromatic flavour and is named after Scotland’s Tay River. If you want to know what one tastes like, try Waterhouse Fayre who produces an amazing array of jams from hybrids such as tayberries, tummelberries and boysenberries. The berries are either grown on site or sourced from local growers in the South West.
Have you heard of samphire? There are two types of this sea vegetable – marsh and rock – but only marsh samphire is widely available. Marsh samphire has vibrant green stalks, similar to baby asparagus, with a distinctively crisp and salty taste. It can be used raw in salad, though it tends to be very salty so it is more often boiled or steamed for a few minutes.
But the good news is that it is now ready for consumption! Head over to Devon and visit Riverford if you want to buy samphire that has been grown in an organically certified Devon field that was flooded by the sea.
Finally, it’s what you’ve been waiting for: the great British marrow is almost ripe! Marrows are commonly cultivated in the British Isles but it is the marrow growing competitions that send people into a frenzy. The British record is held by a marrow that weighed 171lbs. By the way, the courgette is actually just an immature marrow. If you head to Dorset, you can find all sorts of vegetables, maybe not of record-breaking dimensions, at Wessex Plants (1988) Ltd, a family business supplying professional growers, mainly in the South West of the UK. The present range of plants includes cabbage, cauliflower, calabrese, sprouts, leeks, onions and purple sprouting broccoli amongst others.
- Johnny Logan
- Chuck Norris
What links them all? They’re all berries of course and with Wimbledon started, so has the season for strawberries and cream.
The beauty of the UK is that regardless of the weather, there is always somewhere to go and something to do.
With the recent deluges sweeping the country, the NEC in Birmingham had the perfect solution: the Summer Good Food Show. Recognised as the “biggest summer food festival to hit the Midlands” the show opened on 13 June. It was packed with food lovers’ delights, from demonstrations to exhibitors to taster sessions and expert advice and tuition from some of the UK’s top chefs.
The Big Kitchen has always been the highlight of the Show and this year it did not disappoint. Some of the very best celebrity chefs and guests cooked up delights live on stage. Lotte Duncan presented Taste of Italy, with offerings from Tom Kerridge, James Martin, Raymond Blanc, Tom Kerridge, Nadiya Hussain, Ainsley Harriot and the marvellous pairing of Mary Berry and Alan Titchmarsh.
Exhibitors turned out in their hundreds to tempt the flow of Show visitors with delicious, innovative and healthy produce. There was a huge selection of artisan producers and over in the Producers Village, there was a smattering of almost every food type from bread and cheese, savoury sausage rolls to luxury sweets.
Pop up Restaurant
Of great interest was the BBC Good Food Pop-Up Restaurant. This offered a sit-down meal of two or three courses. These were inspired by some of the most popular seasonal dishes from www.bbcgoodfood.com. The event was extraordinarily popular. Hardly surprising when you see the menu: charred asparagus, smoked salmon, shrimps and rye crumbs; followed by cumin-roasted rump of lamb, crushed Jersey royals, shallot petals, caper and mint dressing; or fish pie with smoked haddock, king prawns and salmon, crunchy cheddar mash and steamed greens.
But it wasn’t only food and drink that visitors were interested in this year. The BDA Dietitian Drop In Clinic was very well attended. The Association of British Dietitians were on hand to give advice on diagnosing and treating diet and nutrition problems.
The Skills School was a sell-out. Classes ranged from making and decorating fondant fancies, preparing the perfect sushi and learning Zwilling knife skills. Lexus played host to the Lunch Clubs at the Show this year. It worked with Michelin-starred chefs Michel Roux Jr, Tom Kerridge, Tommy Banks and Emily Roux to present dishes inspired by their cooking style and recipes.
Finally, for those exhausted by the demonstrations, sampling and treats, visitors made their way to the BBC Gardener’s World Live. Here they could stroll among the plants and enjoy the gardens, all included in the price of this year’s ticket.
The Women’s World Cup is underway which gives us something to watch while the UK slowly drowns in the worst June weather in decades. The host country, France, is home over the next few weeks to 24 teams from six confederations with 17 matches scheduled to be played.
2019 is the eighth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, with France winning the right to host the event for the first time. Matches are being played in nine cities across France.
The United States enters the competition as defending champions and firm favourites. Scotland, Chile, Jamaica and South Africa are making their Women’s World Cup debuts. Other teams include France, United States, Germany, England, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Japan, Sweden, Brazil, Spain, Norway, South Korea, China PR, Italy, New Zealand, Argentina, Nigeria and Cameroon.
If you were wondering, the emblem mimics the shape of the World Cup trophy football surrounded by eight decorative shards of light. This symbolises the eighth edition of the Women’s World Cup. Ettie is the mascot. According to FIFA she is “a young chicken with a passion for life and football…the daughter of Footix, the official mascot of the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.” How charming to see such a family-oriented tournament.
So what are the talking points of the Women’s World Cup so far? A 13-goal fiasco from the United States team have sent fans into a frenzy. The Americans celebrated every goal with expected exuberance, adding on a fair few minutes to the end of the game. With this historic win over Thailand, the USA squad has taken the record for the biggest winning margin in a World Cup. That was previously held by Germany, who beat Argentina 11-0 in 2007.
Although as we go to press the World Cup virgins (Chile, Jamaica, Scotland and South Africa) have racked up nil points so far. But they are all performing well and are proving the theme of the World Cup slogan – Dare to Shine. And the attendance has been excellent throughout all of the venues, with the Netherlands fans seemingly the most avid. Their orange dominates the colour scene in the host French cities. Over 30,000 Netherlands fans packed PSV’s stadium against Australia.
Players to watch out for include Nikita Parris from England. Head coach, Phil Neville, claims that she could develop into one of the world’s best players. Parris scored the opening goal of England’s Women’s World Cup campaign in their 2-1 win over Scotland on Sunday. She was the Women’s Super League’s all-time top scorer last season with Manchester City before moving to European champions Lyon.
The competition concludes on 9 July 2019 where the winners will take the biggest prize in women’s football. And with the viewing figures for the Women’s World Cup, eight times that of men’s cricket, there must be an opportunity for catering businesses.
Healthy and sustainable food procurement is increasingly important and in the BANES region, they are taking it very seriously.
In 2017, the West of England Food Procurement Group was set up by four West of England local authorities including BANES. This has the aim of providing leadership on healthy and sustainable food procurement, catering and public health. The group works together to exchange information, share best practice and identify initiatives and actions; to support healthy and sustainable food procurement across the West of England.
And there are plenty of producers in BANES from which to choose in every food category. If you are looking for vegetables, try Plowright Organics. Mr Plowright started growing organic vegetables in 2000. He now runs a very successful veg box scheme as well as supplying wholesale markets.
At the end of last year, the company added an even more attractive item to its menu to offset the leeks, potatoes, carrots, onions etc. This is a fully compostable (plastic free) bag which is used to pack leafy produce. The bags are made using GMO-free starch from thistles, and will break down fully.
If you really can’t live without quinoa, then the Bath Farm Girls can help you out. A family affair, the company provides the local community as well as the British Quinoa Company. The farm also produces wheat, barley and linseed grapes. It also runs a Countryside Stewardship scheme developing wildlife habitat areas and pollen and nectar mixes across the farm.
Oils and mayonnaise are the specialities of Bath Harvest Oils, pressed and bottled with love in Somerset. The company produces numerous flavoured oils such as lemon and basil as well as the trademark rapeseed oil, which contains vitamin E and Omega 3. This is produced by cold pressing small batches of seed grown on the Wilmington Farm. The family has been farming for four generations and can boast that Bath Harvest Rapeseed Oil is a fully traceable ‘field to fork’ artisan product.
Grown Green is a double award-winning sustainable market garden, based at Hartley Farm in Winsley. Founded in 2010, vegetables, herbs, salads and flowers are grown following organic standards year-round in polytunnels, herb beds and fields.
BANES Cheese and Meat
Do you need cheese? Then try Homewood Cheeses based in Ubley in the beautiful Chew Valley. The company makes its own cheeses by hand with ewes milk from two Somerset flocks. Choose from Fresh Ewes Cheese (curd), Halloumi, Ricotta, Pickled Ewes Cheese (feta-style) and a family of washed curd cheeses including Old Demdike. Homewood can be found every Saturday at the Bath Farmers Market and on the first Sunday of the month at the Frome Independent.
Finally, Larkhall Butchers is a multi-award winning shop situated in the heart of Larkhall, on the outskirts of Bath. A well-stocked traditional butcher’s counter supplements a selection of cooked and cured meats, as well as fresh fish and other accompaniments. The butcher’s is famous for its own sausages made freshly on site, using pea flour as a substitute for rusks for a range of delicious 100% gluten free sausages.
And these are just a few of the local food producers that AC Services Southern found in the BANES region.
Every couple of months AC Services takes a look at what’s been making the regional news in the area it serves in the food and drink industry. This time Welsh news is uppermost.
It seems that Wales is thinking ahead and planning for any contingency caused to the industry by Brexit. The Welsh government has pledged to pump £22 million into the food and drink industry. It cites its support for agri-food as a “strategic priority”. In 2018 the Welsh food and farming sector was worth £6.8 billion employing 217,000 people. The cash will support innovation and help navigate the post-Brexit landscape.
It has a particular emphasis on strengthening European partnerships. This is an attempt to minimise the chaos surrounding Brexit which threatens to damage trading relationships. Food Innovation Wales has become a network partner of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s Food KIK. With the funding from Wales, a dedicated EIT presence will be established in Wales. This links the Welsh industry to a wider consortium of industry players across Europe.
Denbigh fruit from the Vale of Clwyd has been given protected food name status by the European Commission. It now stands proudly up with the likes of Welsh lamb and Caerphilly cheese. Denbigh boasts the only native variety of plum in Wales. Over the past ten years, it has witnessed a resurgence of plums being grown in the area.
It is only the 16th Welsh product, and Wales’ first fruit, to gain the EU’s prestigious protected food name status. It will now receive Europe-wide protection against imitation, misuse and fraud.
Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs said: “I’m delighted The Vale of Clwyd Denbigh Plum has been honoured with protected food name status. I hope it will prove a welcome boost for businesses in the area. With Brexit fast approaching, we are determined to support Welsh food and drink businesses and ensure they are given all necessary help in a challenging marketplace.”
South West English News
The opening of a new vegan street food café serving vegan pizzas, wraps, smoothies and homemade pancakes and crumpets to the residents of Teignmouth has taken place. Nourish Plant Based Cafe has a tantalising menu on offer. This includes garlic mushrooms, rocket, sundried tomatoes, soft cheese, refried beans, roasted veg, spinach, creme fraiche, guacamole, bean salad, tomato salsa and house aioli.
In nearby Seaton, a café serving all-local ingredients has been opened to support West Country food producers. All the food and drink at Taste of the West @ Seaton Jurassic is guaranteed to be produced locally in the South West. Devon Wildlife Trust is providing the venue.
“This is the perfect partnership for us,” says Richard Drysdale, Head of Visitor Centres for Devon Wildlife Trust. “We are committed to supporting local businesses and offering the very best food and drink to our visitors.” Taste of the West plans to roll out the café franchise throughout the South West.
And finally, there’s good news for the seafood industry. According to the most recent HMRC statistics (March 2019), the South West now exports more seafood than any other region in England. Overseas sales now total more than £155.7m in 2018.
Sales to China jumped by 25.9% in 2018, compared to the previous year. This is driven by increasing disposable income within China’s rapidly expanding middle class and the UK’s strong reputation for the quality of its catch.
It’s been a long time coming but it’s finally here. Yes, Theresa May is resigning. But before that, there’s the little matter of the Cricket World Cup 2019. This starts this week which, at least to sporting fans, is infinitely more interesting.
The UK will host this elite event through many venues across the country and excitement is already building.
The event has a long and varied history, having begun with three nations, England, Australia and South Africa in 1912, with England as the host. Sadly the tournament was not a success. For one, the weather was abysmal – the August of 1912 was recorded as the “coldest, dullest and wettest August of the 20th century”. Some might say typical English cricket weather.
A Very Brief History
The first of what is now accepted as the official Cricket World Cup was held in England in 1975 who hosted the four-yearly event for the next three tournaments. India and Pakistan were the hosts for 1987.
2019 will be the fifth time that England has hosted the tournament and as hosts, automatically qualify. The next seven spots belong to the top seven ODI ranking teams in the ICC, and for the last two spots, the ICC conducted a qualifying tournament for the remaining test playing nations in the world. West Indies and Afghanistan occupy those spots.
10 teams will face each other in a total of 45 games before the final stage of the tournament. The top four teams from the group stage will qualify for the semi-final as there are no quarter-finals for the 2019 Cricket World Cup. The two successful teams will then compete in the final on 14 July.
Venues and Stadiums
Venues are London, Birmingham, Southampton, Trent Bridge, Chester-Le-Street, Leeds, Nottingham, Cardiff, and Taunton. The stadiums are Lord’s, The Oval, Trent Bridge, Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Rose Bowl, Old Trafford, River Side Ground, County Cricket Ground, Headingley, and Sophia Gardens. So with some local and others televised there’s plenty of opportunity for themed catering events.
The schedule is as follows and makes June a veritable month of cricket.
- May 30 England v South Africa
- 31 West Indies v Pakistan
- June 1 NZ v Sri Lanka; Afghanistan v Australia
- 2 South Africa v Bangladesh
- 3 England v Pakistan
- 4 Afghanistan v Sri Lanka
- 5 South Africa v India; Bangladesh v NZ
- 6 Australia v West Indies
- 7 Pakistan v Sri Lanka
- 8 England v Bangladesh; Afghanistan v NZ
- 9 India v Australia
- 10 South Africa v West Indies
- 11 Bangladesh v Sri Lanka
- 12 Australia v Pakistan
- 13 India v NZ
- 14 England v West Indies
- 15 Sri Lanka v Australia; South Africa v Afghanistan
- 16 India v Pakistan
- 17 West Indies v Bangladesh
- 18 England v Afghanistan
- 19 NZ v South Africa
- 20 Australia v Bangladesh
- 21 England v Sri Lanka
- 22 India v Afghanistan; West Indies v NZ
- 23 Pakistan v South Africa
- 24 Bangladesh v Afghanistan
- 25 England v Australia
- 26 NZ v Pakistan
- 27 West Indies v India
- 28 Sri Lanka v South Africa
- 29 Pakistan v Afghanistan; NZ v Australia
- 30 England v India
- July 1 Sri Lanka v West Indies
- 2 Bangladesh v India
- 3 England v NZ
- 4 Afghanistan v West Indies
- 5 Pakistan v Bangladesh
- 6 Sri Lanka v India
- 6 Australia v South Africa
- 9 First sf: 1st v 4th, Old Trafford
- 11 Second sf: 2nd v 3rd, Edgbaston
- 14 Final, Lord’s
Cricket World Cup Fun Facts
When the game slows or it begins to rain a few fun facts to throw into the conversation:
- Australia became the first country to win three consecutive World Cup tournament in 2007.
- Until now Australia has won five times, India and West Indies twice, and Pakistan and Sri Lanka once.
- Sachin Tendulkar scored a total of 2278 runs from 1992 to 2011 which is the most by any batsman.
- Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels have the record of highest partnership (372 runs against Zimbabwe).
- The most runs in a single tournament and most hundreds in World Cup history belong to Sachin Tendulkar.
- Glenn McGrath has taken most wickets in the World Cup tournament (71).
- Ricky Ponting holds the record for the most catches.
And if the Cricket World Cup 2019 is not the sport you want to celebrate or its rained off then there is always the women’s football world cup starting on 7th June as an alternative!
More than simply a swimming pool, the Clifton Lido in Bristol has gained a well-earned reputation for fine food. With a restaurant and a poolside bar, the former restored Victorian swimming pool has been designed for contemporary luxury.
Having first opened its doors in 1850, the swimming pool changed hands many times until its final closure in 1990. The threat of turning the building into flats was ever-present until 2006, when the Glass Boat company purchased the site. And following an extensive restoration project, the Lido opened to the public two years later. It now boasts a Grade II listing and a record as the oldest heated outdoor swimming pool in Britain.
Restaurant and Bar
The restaurant overlooks the pool on the original viewing gallery. It offers a relaxed and informal space with floor to ceiling doors sliding back to allow entry for the elements. The menus incorporate Moorish and Mediterranean cuisine, with a strong Spanish lilt, with ingredients sourced from small-scale hand-picked suppliers.
The set menu offers delicacies such as raw rhubarb, fennel, salted almond and goat’s curd salad for starters and warm North African mezze with falafel, tahini sauce and warm flat bread for mains followed by Basque-style burnt cheesecake, rhubarb and creme fraiche Pedro Ximenez and raisin ice cream for dessert.
The transformation of the venue into a chilled-out restaurant has been a resounding success, with “relaxed and unpretentious dining; where suits and robes sit cheek by jowl to enjoy great ingredients.”
According to maintenance manager, Paul Wyatt, the kitchen equipment has been instrumental in this success, with a three-year old Rational electric oven working hard in the kitchen to supply perfect cuisine to diners.
“We have an ad hoc contract with AC Services (Southern) with the oven” he explains. “It is serviced once a year but the company is always on hand should any minor problems arise.” Typically these issues comprise of general wear and tear due to the oven being constantly in use, but rarely, if ever do any big problems arise.
Paul has an affinity with Rational, as part of his job is to also look after the Bristol Glassboat restaurant.This is owned by the same company, and situated on Welshback in Bristol’s historic floating harbour. The venue has fast become an iconic eating house in Bristol, with tables that look out to the water through large, restored wooden windows, with views around the harbourside and to the city.
The restaurant opened 30 years ago, with the original boat dragged from the muddy waters of the river Severn and lovingly restored in the early 1980s. The Glassboat Brasserie menu consists of a classic French menu, carefully chosen and prepared using the best ingredients.
The food is simple in style but exquisite in taste, with a massive choice: rabbit terrine, cornichons, celeriac remoulade, provencale fish soup, aioli, rouille, crouton, fried pigs head, smoked eel and potato pancakes are just some of the delicacies on the menu.
And yet again, behind the success lies a Rational 101 SH oven, five years old and still going strong. “The big advantage of this appliance is that it is self cleaning,” continues Paul. “The chef just turns it on and it is ready for use. The reliability and performance is outstanding and plays a huge role in the continuing success and reputation of the Glassboat.”
As a company focused on servicing and maintaining Rational ovens for all sorts of catering businesses; it’s not surprising we’re also interested in food sourcing and safeguarding the future. For many of our clients the choice of ingredients and being different is important. This is why the first UN study of biodiversity set our alarm bells ringing.
This warns of “humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity”. The Food and Agriculture Organisation issued the report and the findings are pretty stark. Over the past 20 years, around 20% of the vegetated surface of the earth has become less productive. In other words, our global capacity to produce food is weakening.
What do we mean by biodiversity ? According to definition it is the “variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part…diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.” On the David Attenborough scale of climate-changing significance, it is way up there.
The Decline of Natural Assets
Scientists involved in the report found evidence the natural support systems underpinning the human diet are deteriorating around the world. Factories, farms and urban infrastructure in particular, are capturing land and pumping out chemicals. This is leading to a debilitating loss in natural assets. These include forests, coral reefs, soil biodiversity, grasslands, and genetic diversity in crop and livestock species.
There is a reduction in the amount of species indirectly involved in food production. Examples of these are crop-pest eating birds and water-purifying mangrove trees. Pollinators are at risk, and they provide essential services to three-quarters of the world’s crops.
But if we are producing more food than ever before, as we are, how is this possible? The sobering reality is that we are relying on ever-expanding monocultures. Incredibly, two-thirds of crop production comes from just nine species. These are maize, sugar cane, wheat, potatoes, rice, soybeans, oil-palm fruit, cassava and sugar beet.
There are at least 6,000 cultivated plant species categorised as being in decline. At the same time wild food sources are becoming harder to find. Agriculture and urbanisation are taking much of the blame with habitat loss, pesticides, pollution, invasive species, pathogens and climate change.
Are We In Danger?
Is this overdependence on a handful of products a problem? Seemingly so, as the report cited the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s; the 20th century cereal crop failures in the US; and more recently the losses of taro production in Samoa in the 1990s as examples of when overdependence can have a brutal impact on humans.
Even the Lancett has joined the crusade, stating that “our diets are the largest cause of climate change and biodiversity loss is now overwhelming”. The global food system is responsible for around 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions, with the livestock sector on its own accounting for about 14.5% of that figure. Its solution? Halve global meat consumption, and more than double the volume of whole grains, pulses, nuts, fruit and vegetables.
If that’s too radical, in 2016, another report suggested an alternative solution. “Possible policy options include better protection of natural environments and ecosystems, limiting the scope of intensive agriculture, and finding alternatives to pesticides.”
Last word goes to Michael Higgins, Ireland’s president. “Around the world, the library of life that has evolved over billions of years – our biodiversity – is being destroyed, poisoned, polluted, invaded, fragmented, plundered, drained and burned at a rate not seen in human history. If we were coal miners we’d be up to our waists in dead canaries.”