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New research on the impacts of COVID-19 on UK food and nutrition security

Abundance of vegetables (image: Pixabay)
"The project focusses on UK food and nutrition security which is heavily dependent on global markets"

The diverse and multi-faceted impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on UK and global food nutrition security are at the centre of a multi-disciplinary research initiative led by the James Hutton Institute and funded with a £341,000 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council.

COVID-19 is causing major shocks to the global food system through impacts on multiple parts of it. Examples include reductions in productivity (e.g. labour limitations), breakdown of distribution, changed demands and supply chain restrictions. Economic impacts are altering both supply, distribution and demand. Collectively these shocks are substantially altering food systems whilst in the longer-term normal approaches to trade may not adapt appropriately leading to changes in the balance of traded commodities, reduction in food reserves and price increases.

Project leader Dr Mike Rivington, from the Institute's Information and Computational Sciences department, said: "The project focusses on UK food and nutrition security which is heavily dependent on global markets. Half of the food we consume is imported and UK livestock industries rely heavily on imported feed.

"Some countries have already restricted exports in order to supply home markets. Normal market forces, transportation and distribution networks may experience difficulty in providing national requirements.

"A challenge is to understand how to increase capacity for self-reliance to maintain a healthy population and to understand how impacts and changes in the UK affect other countries."

Project partners are Professor Tim Benton and his team from Chatham House and Dr Paul BurgessProfessor Jim Harris and Dr Adrian Williams from Cranfield University. They will undertake world-leading research to provide government, business and decision makers with the evidence that they need to develop a robust UK food and nutrition response to the current pandemic.

The project will carry out a global assessment of how the food system is responding and place this within a UK context using trade data (e.g. Chatham House's, expert knowledge elicitation from international and UK sources. This information will be used to develop plausible scenarios to assess cascading consequences of multiple impacts on the food system. 

Using their expertise on agroecological systems, the team will explore a range of alternative land use and management and food system structures to help identify how resilience can be improved. Whilst the initial focus will be on the immediate and emerging situation, the project will also investigate longer-term alternative options for land use, management options and overall food systems within the UK to build increased resilience. 

The research will also provide evidence to ensure food system responses to the pandemic do not jeopardise efforts to address climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.

Besides Dr Rivington, Hutton scientists involved in the project include Dr Matt Aitkenhead, Dr Cathy Hawes, Dr Ken Loades, Dr Gary Polhill, Professor Adrian Newton, Dr Graham Begg, Dr Roy Neilson, Dr Pete Iannetta, Professor Derek Stewart, Dr Adam Calo, Dr Dominic Duckett, Dr Christina Noble and geospatial analysts Douglas Wardell-Johnson, Gianna Gandossi and Dr Emmanuel Udugbezi.

Press and media enquiries: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, James Hutton Institute, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

Printed from /news/new-research-impacts-covid-19-uk-food-and-nutrition-security on 24/04/24 01:35:37 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.