On one side are increasing numbers of people for whom basic needs have become aspirational, and on the other are the many farmers who say they are struggling to make any money from growing and rearing the food that we eat.

The latter was underlined earlier this year following suggestions from the UK Environment Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, that people should be eating home-grown turnips rather than imported tomatoes. Amid the backlash from commentators disgruntled by soaring supermarket prices and empty shelves, it emerged that Ms Coffey seemingly hadn’t realised that the UK’s biggest turnip producer – located in her constituency – had stopped growing them months earlier because he couldn’t charge enough to make up for the rising cost of energy and fertiliser.

Starting tomorrow in The Herald 👇



However, there are many facets to the food supply chain and the crisis currently besetting it. Between primary producer and consumer are a raft of butchers, bakers, processors and other manufacturers who themselves are scrambling to make ends meet amid the rising cost of labour, commodities and energy.

With about 40 per cent of all food and drink consumed in the UK brought in from elsewhere, the sector is more exposed than many to factors beyond these shores. The impact of the war in Ukraine – previously one of the top three grain exporters in the world – is common knowledge. Inclement weather in countries such as Spain and Morocco triggered the widespread shortage of salad crops that led Ms Coffey to call on us to “cherish” seasonal UK produce.

READ MORE: Grocery inflation hits new record high

European imports that do make their way here are subject to additional delay and paperwork in the wake of Brexit, which has also slashed the number of seasonal workers available to grow and harvest domestic crops.

And of course there are the supermarkets, the linchpins of the consumer experience. They too have taken a hit, yet at the same time continue generating profits in the hundreds of millions.

One recurring theme is the close link between energy prices and that of food, which is an energy-intensive business. According to the UK Food Security Report produced by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), natural gas which has surged in cost accounts for about 60% of total energy needs in the food and drink manufacturing sector.

Food is the ultimate energy source – without it, we would die. It’s time to take a long, hard look at how we eat.