Certain fresh produce such as strawberries can only grow in the UK seasonally. To cater for the year-round demand, supermarkets must import from countries with suitable climates, or those with extensive climate-controlled greenhouse facilities like Holland. Here are a few examples of which corners of the world the produce in your basket has come from.
Growing in large forests on the banks of the Amazon river and neighbouring countries like Bolivia and Venezuela, In 1970 Brazil harvested a reported 104,487 tons of Brazil nuts. By 1980 annual production of Brazil nuts was around 40,000 tons from Brazil alone. The nut’s oil is found from artists’ paint to the cosmetics industry. The EU has imposed strict regulations on the import of Brazil nuts from the country, as the shells have been found to contain high levels of the cancer leading aflatoxins. Now, approximately just 20,000 tons are harvested each year, Bolivia accounting for about 50% and Brazil only 40%, Peru 10%.
Although lemons are thought to originate in northeast India, northern Burma or China, they entered Europe near southern Italy no later than the first century AD. There’s a saying in Sicily that lemons are not real lemons unless they’re Sicilian. Around 90% of US lemon crops come from California, whilst UK suppliers seeking luxury will buy lemon oil directly from Sicilian suppliers.
One of the national emblems of Wales, your typical supermarket leek originates from Spain, Holland or the UK. Its history goes back much further though, originating in southern Europe and western Asia around 2000 BC, and their remains have been found inside Egyptian tombs.
The next time you’re buying poultry, read the label closely. You may find a statement like Produced in: the UK, but keep reading and underneath you may well find Using chicken from: the EU, South America. Producers can be extremely sneaky with the information they provide, especially as consumers become environmentally conscious.
Your supermarket milk comes from the UK, but if you’re really serious about your carbon footprint stick with your milkman to get it as fresh and local as possible.
Before reaching your local supermarket to become part of the endless array of products available, foods have been sourced from all over the world. It’s interesting to note that consumers love the exotic foods only available in select corners of the globe, but shun well-travelled products if they can be sourced closer to home. Whether your food comes from another continent, wider Europe, across the Channel or the UK, it’s a good idea to weigh up whether your goods are being produced further afield for reasons like cheaper labour and compare it with the carbon footprint. To be environmentally friendly, shop at farmers markets; though you’ll only find products that are in season, it makes the delight of finding something that hasn’t been about for a while all the sweeter.