Will we get more food shortages?

8 Jun 2023
4 min read
Empty supermarket shelves

Recent years have seen empty shelves in the supermarkets and obviously this was a serious concern for a lot of shoppers. We heard shortages may be because of trade agreements but the reality is you can’t get your cucumbers or tomatoes because of climate change and that’s where the issue pretty much starts and stops.

Climate change is the culprit

Rather than discuss climate change, cereal producers looked elsewhere for ingredients.

We’ve had food shortages in the past due to extreme weather events but big companies and supermarkets have found ways around them, either by finding different suppliers or marketing the shortages differently.

When cereals started being fortified with different grains including oats and barley it was – in part – because wheat prices went so high as demand outweighed supply following droughts and floods in Australia and other wheat exporting countries. But rather than discuss climate change, cereal producers looked elsewhere for ingredients.

Adverse weather affects crops

Failed crops in a brown field. Is climate change to blame for food shortages?

Yes, a lot of our produce, grown out of season, including our humble tomato and cucumber come from Europe or North Africa that have warmer climates.  But last winter they have been hit by bad weather which has destroyed the crops.

We usually grow both of those products in the UK as well. Unfortunately though, the producers in places like the Isle of Wight where these products grow in massive greenhouses have been hit with spiralling energy costs and they can’t afford to keep their greenhouses warm and lit throughout winter, so it has left our supply chain vulnerable.

It used to be that if France had a bad crop because of the weather, Spain might have a good one or vice versa but the empty supermarket shelves are because everywhere is being affected by climate change so there’s no quick fix, or other ‘go to’ suppliers to keep us consumers happy.

The usual places we buy food from are experiencing unseasonal weather.

Frosts, heatwaves, floods, drought – they’re all affecting farmers on a global scale, and it’s got nothing to do with trade, it’s all to do with the fact our planet is getting warmer and our weather is going haywire as we burn more oil and gas.

It’s a global problem

From Australia to Pakistan to Spain to North Africa – the usual places we buy food from are experiencing unseasonal weather and that’s affecting what they can grow and sell and ultimately, what we can buy.

There are things we can do to limit how much our shopping list is affected though.

Firstly buying seasonally will mean we’re limiting our food miles, which supports UK farmers and reducing fossil fuels burnt to heat greenhouses in winter– which ultimately helps the planet. Have a look on https://www.findlocalproduce.co.uk/ to find your nearest producers. It also means we’re less likely to feel the effect of weather events thousands of miles away.

Secondly, opting for dried or tinned rather than fresh when it comes to some fruits or vegetables can help mitigate gaps in your weekly shop.

While we all know kids want the same things and can be fussy, buying different items every week – or at least one different item of both fruit and veg – mean you’re hedging your bets and could have a ‘go to’ other the next time you can’t get peppers for your Friday night fajitas.

Grow your own food

Even if you only have a window box, have a go at growing your own. Herbs are some of the most expensive things in fruit and veg aisles and if you have a garden why not try your own cucumbers and tomatoes?

Look local

I’m a huge advocate of local producers too. www.bigbarn.co.uk is a website where you can search local producers either by product – like eggs or cucumbers – or by postcode so you can browse your local farm shop.

The bottom line is that climate change and subsequently, food shortages aren’t going anywhere so we have to adapt how and what we shop for, so we don’t get hit in the shopping basket or our pockets.


The information in this article was correct at the time of writing and is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

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