True-Cost accounting in Food and Farming - conference

This blog was created as part of the original Valuing Nature Network (2011-2014)

Last Friday I went to the True-Cost Accounting in Food and Farming conference in London, organised by the Sustainable Food Trust

The conference ranged across pretty much everything that you could imagine would come under the topic of sustainable food; the environmental costs of producing and transporting food around the world; the health issues of an increase in obesity and conversly people still not having enough food to eat, the nutritional value of the food that people eat, the expense of beef, food waste and whether all food should be more expensive to reflect its true cost to the the environment and to the people who produce it?

Massive questions aPrince Charlesnd I'm not sure how many answers to these were put forward at the event. Anyway, to give you an idea of what was covered here are a couple of highlights. HRH the Prince of Wales gave a video message of support to the event which you can watch on the Sustainable Food Trust website.

One talk that stood out for me was Adrian de Groot Ruiz on the true cost of a jar of coffee. He gave an outline of the cost, say $2, of a jar of coffee and how much that might increase if you add an amount for human welfare - as the Fairtrade and similar coffees already do. Plus if you also add an amount for a production system which reduces environmental impact, such as organic production, then the costs start to add up to the consumer.

Whilst there will always be people who are willing and able to pay more for their coffee for these extra benefits, this is never going to appeal to the mass market. Adrian's argument is that these true costs should be valued but they should act as a guide for improved production which genuinely reduces these external costs.

All of this would be much clearer if I could give you the actual figures, but as the conference was being recorded I didn't take notes! As soon as the recordings of the rest of the event are available I will put these up.

Update - the recording of the talks are now available so here is the link to Adrian's talk on coffee. You need to go to minute 00:40 for the start of Adrian.