Save our chips! New report shows climate change poses threat to UK fruit and veg

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Extreme and unpredictable weather - made more frequent by climate change - is putting future supplies of British potatoes at risk, according to a new report.

The analysis, from The Climate Coalition, says that the changing climate is posing a threat to the British fruit and vegetables we love because of more frequent and severe heatwaves and flooding. Last summer's heatwave was made about 30 times more likely by climate change, according to the Met Office.

The damaging impact of climatic extremes could make British-grown potatoes and other fruit and vegetables harder to come by for shoppers, with more than half of UK farms saying they have been affected by a severe climatic event, such as flooding, in the past 10 years.

Sarah Croft, Campaigns Manager at CAFOD, said: "The communities we work with overseas have already been witnessing the effects of climate change on food supplies - whether that's farmers who have lost crops from a lack of rainfall or rises in food prices due to shortages.

"This report shows that we're not going to be immune to the impact of the changing climate on our dinner tables here at home."

The Climate Coalition is made up of more than 130 organisations representing over 15 million people, ranging from aid agencies such as CAFOD and Christian Aid to groups such as the Women's Institute, WWF, RSPB, and the National Trust.

The report, Recipe for disaster: Climate change threatens British-grown fruit and veg, is being published as part of the Coalition's Show The Love campaign which celebrates things that we love but could lose to climate change.

Climate change 'can put growers out of business'

Lee Abbey, Head of Horticulture at the National Farmers Union, said: "A lot of growers will have come out of this year with sore heads and not much income. Farmers and growers are used to dealing with fluctuations in the weather but if we have two or three extreme years in a row it has the potential to put growers out of business."

The National Farmers Union recently announced its aspiration for UK farming to become net zero in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 - meaning that no more carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere than is taken out of it.

Changing climate impacting on fruit and veg crop yields

Potato yields were down on average 20 per cent in England and Wales in 2018 compared to the previous season. Carrots (yields reportedly down 25-30 per cent) and onions (reportedly down 40 per cent) were also hampered in 2018 by warmer than average temperatures. Some English vineyards reported up to 75 per cent of their crop being damaged by late spring frosts in 2017.

Cedric Porter, editor of World Potato Markets, said consumers were already having to deal with smaller chips as a result of last year's drought and extreme heat: "They were 3 cm shorter on average in the UK. Chips are made by cutting the potatoes, they are not reformed so smaller potatoes [at harvest] means smaller chips because the length is reduced."

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, food writer and broadcaster, said: "If we are to protect our fantastic British fruit and veg for future generations, then the food industry and our Government have got to step up and make the kind of major changes - reducing emissions, cutting waste, supporting green energy, for example - that will have a profound effect."

Sarah Croft from CAFOD said: "Pope Francis encourages us in Laudato Si' to act to care for our common home, including taking the necessary steps to ensure that everyone can share in the fruits of the earth.

"We need the government to set a more ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2045 in order to keep temperature rises below the dangerous level of 1.5C."

Read the report here:

Add your name to the call for a more ambitious emissions target:

Tags: Environment, Climate Change, CAFOD, Emissions, Vegetables, Potatoes

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