Climate change in Mediterranean set to hit UK food supply

Climate change in the Mediterranean is set to threaten the UK’s supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, according to a new report from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

The group warned extreme heat in the region has already led to drought, damaged crops and reduced yields, with food shortages and price rises expected in future.

See also: Food security threatened by a lack of government support

In 2022, just over a quarter of UK food imports – worth more than £16bn – came from the Mediterranean.

Some of the commodities imported are foods that can be grown outside in the UK for at least parts of the year, or that can be grown indoors using energy-intensive processes, such as cauliflowers, broccoli, strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions.

But other products such as lemons and sweet peppers, more than half of which come from the Mediterranean, along with 80% of our olive oil, two-thirds of our oranges and 40% of table grapes, cannot be grown at scale in the UK.

Tom Lancaster, land analyst at the ECIU, said: “Rolling heatwaves have rocked southern Europe all summer, hitting harvests for key crops such as olives and peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers.

These impacts will worsen, leaving the UK facing an unpleasant reality in future of more shortages and higher costs.

“More UK production of some fruit and veg can be part of the solution, but we can’t simply grow our way out of the problem.

“Many of these foods cannot be grown here at all, and farmers know better than most that climate change is already hitting yields and quality in the UK.

“The only sure-fire way to avoid ever worsening and more dangerous extremes is to halt global temperature rise.”