Why Food Sustainability Matters Amid Rising Costs

Hotels and restaurants in London will have noticed plenty of areas where their overheads are going up, not least energy costs as the clunky recovery of the world economy from the pandemic is further exacerbated by the fact one of the world’s biggest energy suppliers is now persona non grata across much of the world, especially Europe.

For all the talk of oil and gas prices, however, the war in Ukraine has provided just as much reason to be concerned about food. According to figures from the World’s Top Exports website, in 2020 Russia and Ukraine accounted for over a quarter of the world’s wheat exports.

This has obvious implications for staples like bread around the world, especially in Europe. Indeed, concerns on this point have sparked a row between green transport campaign group Transport and Environment (T&E) and ePURE, Europe’s renewable ethanol producers association.

According to a recent report by T&E, enough wheat to make around 15 million loaves of bread is burned up as biofuel every day and this is threatening to cause food shortages.

This claim has been rejected by ePURE, which denied preferring the biofuels sector while oil prices are elevated and pointed to the EU’s own latest Short Term Outlook Report for the agriculture sector, which stated that there is currently ample surplus to supply both biofuels and bakeries.  

Whether that remains the case if the war drags on, given its impact on planting and harvesting in Ukraine over the coming months, is another question. Higher food prices are one potential consequence. However, this may also spur on the hospitality sector to be more efficient in using the supplies it has.

A year ago the Morning Advertiser reported that the UK hospitality sector was falling short on sustainability by producing 3.6 million tonnes of food waste a year, two million of it still edible.

12 months on, many restaurants and hotels might still be as wasteful now as they were then. But issues of supply and cost arising from two global crises might now force those who are still falling short to embrace sustainability and efficiency, wasting less food and paying attention to the costly energy use involved in its production.

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April 26, 2022 — Jacob Blakey