The current shortage of tomatoes in shops we have learned is due to the unusually cold spell hitting Spain (caused by the global climate crisis) and the lack of investment in British under-glass agriculture. Two key problems that have worsened by successive Governments taking a very short-term view on climate change and food security. But consumers are a big part of the problem, which means that we can also be a big part of the solution….
As a nutritionist I know the health benefits of eating tomatoes, such as fibre, vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene. We recommend eating plenty of them to help reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. What we need to realise though is that lots of foods contain these important nutrients too. Our physical and mental health benefits most when we eat as wide a VARIETY of foods as possible, rather than relying on the same limited range of foods every day of the year.
Using store cupboard tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and sun-dried tomatoes in soups and stews is another way of getting those nutrients when fresh produce is running low. The heat treatment actually boosts bioavailability of lycopene in these products, which is a nice added benefit.
And let’s not avoid talking about that shameful statistic of 10.2 million tonnes of food that is wasted annually in the UK, 71% of which is from households and MOST of it being fruit, vegetable and especially salad. I wonder how many tomatoes will get thrown away during this crisis from panic buyers as supermarkets are reporting that demand is actually higher than usual now..…
So, far from being something that we value and make the most of, many consumers expect to have tomatoes every day of the year even if they end up in land fill.
Investors & Custodians vs Consumers
The problem is when consumers expect tomatoes all year round, supermarkets start providing them. Competition with other supermarkets drives the price down and the greatest pressure is put on farmers and producers.
We grow tomatoes really well here in the UK but as a summer crop. If we expect other countries to grow them at other times of the year we need to be aware of the additional energy and transport costs and how that affects the environment. Conversely, we need to appreciate that extreme weather is already making food production more problematic than ever before.
Ultimately we need to stop seeing ourselves just as consumers but also as investors and custodians;
Investors support hard-working farmers and food producers, both at home and globally.
Custodians protect this precious and vulnerable planet whilst managing to feed ALL of the world population
What else can consumers do?
Environmental nutrition advocates choosing nutrient-dense foods that are farmed in a sustainable way.