Today, food travel thousands of miles from the farm to the consumer. Why is this? Is it a positive or negative trend?
Nowadays, an increasing number of food items offered in supermarkets are imported. Sometimes even quite ordinary food has travelled huge distances. This essay will examine some of the issues surrounding the global trade in food.
While delicacies and spices have been internationally traded for centuries, today’s global trade with low transportation costs and fewer trade barriers has encouraged importing food in large quantities. In some places even everyday items and inexpensive food like pasta or vinegar can be imported cheaper than being produced locally. Consequently, supermarkets take advantage of food globalization.
However, imported food comes at a high price for consumers, the local agriculture and the environment. First of all, some food will lose flavour and freshness when travelling by ship for weeks. For example fruit has to be shipped before fully ripe or additional preservatives have to be added to food. Secondly, local farmers may not be able to compete with the low cost of imported food. They will go out of business or stop growing local fruit or vegetable species at all. This can lead to less local variety in food offered. Additionally, the transportation itself is harmful to the environment as it uses fossil fuels. For all of these reasons a quite vocal “local food” movement has formed in recent years trying to promote and preserve food quality and local grown food.
It can be argued that imported food benefits consumers with low prices and more choice. Supermarkets can choose the least expensive supplier worldwide and offer food at a lower price to their customers. Importing food also enables them to offer more choices, like exotic fruits and international food, to their customers. For example, in some countries it would be impossible to sell most kind of fresh fruits and vegetables in winter at all if they were not imported.
All in all, I think it is worth preserving local food and one should restrict importing foods to products unavailable like delicacies and out-of-season fruits. It will not be easy to reverse this trend, but if consumers choose local food over imported, it can help to make supermarkets decide to offer more local food again.