It was estimated that the South West produced almost 7 million tonnes of food in 2001. An additional 2.4 million tonnes were imported from abroad, while exports were a little over 1 million tonnes.

South West residents consumed around 3.5 million tonnes of food in 2001, approximately 698 kg of food per person over the year. Including materials used and lost during agriculture and processing, the average resident would indirectly consume 930 kg of food per year. 'Bread and cereals' and 'milk and cream' constituted almost 30% of a South West resident's diet. 87% of food consumed in the South West is eaten at home, and 13% eaten out.

Table 5 summarises food consumed in the South West in 2001, by food type and whether it was eaten at home or eaten out (for example, at restaurants).

Table 5
Food consumed by South West residents, in 2001 ('000 tonnes)
Total food consumption 3,445
  Eaten at home Eaten out % of total food
Sub-total 3,012 432  
of which…  
Milk & cream 577 <5 17%
Beverages 427 108 16%
Fruit 372 5 11%
Bread & other cereals** 369 19 11%
Fish 256 5 8%
Confectionery 242 <5 7%
Other*** 187 54 7%
Other vegetables* 173 18 6%
Cheese 154 <5 5%
Sugar & preserves 49 <5 2%
Fats 43 <5 1%
Eggs 42 <5 1%
Potatoes 38 26 2%
Alcoholic drinks 33 92 4%
Meat 32 26 2%
Soft drinks 17 72 3%
* Other vegetables include all fresh, green and processed vegetables such as lettuce, sprouts or carrots, but excludes potatoes.
** Other cereals include breakfast cereals, snacks (for example popadums), cakes and flour.
*** Other foods include for example soups, salad dressings and sauces.
Note: Totals may differ due to rounding.
Source: DEFRA, 2002 & 2003b and ONS, 2003

Food production and processing

More than 8,000 tonnes of apples were harvested in the South West in 2001. An estimated 740 tonnes of solid waste arose from the growing and harvest of these apples (90 kg/tonne). In comparison, the production of 400,000 tonnes of potatoes gave rise to an estimated 16,000 tonnes of solid waste (40 kg/tonne).

In total, the South West food processing industry generated 609,000 tonnes of waste. Just over 30% of this was reused, with recycling and waste sent to landfill being the next most common forms of waste management. The beverage industry generated the largest quantity of waste in the sector, 140,000 tonnes.

Sources: C-Tech, 2004; DEFRA, 2003a; FAO, 2002 and University of Plymouth, 2003

Food ecological footprint

The ecological footprint for food consumed by the South West residents in 2001, was 1.63 gha per person.

This includes food consumed by South West residents, whether in the home or eaten out, in 2001. Post-consumer food waste was not included (to avoid double counting). It accounted for 29% of a South West resident's total ecological footprint.

Meat and other animal-based products such as milk and cream, were responsible for 77% of the footprint (see Figure 12). Meat was the biggest contributor at 35% of the total food ecological footprint, and fish the second biggest at 31%. Plant-based food contributed 23% of the total food ecological footprint although it was 66% by weight; animal-based food takes many more resources per kilo to produce than plant-based food.

Figure 12
Food ecological footprints of South West residents, compared with tonnages consumed, in 2001

fig 12

Cream of the crop

Almost a fifth of all farms in the region are used for dairy, about 201,300 ha. This is the largest proportion in the UK. Most dairy farms are situated in Devon and Cornwall, the former having the largest number of dairy cattle in the UK. In total, the South West has 543,000 head of dairy. This is just under a quarter of the UK's dairy herd.

In 2001, the herd produced over 2 million litres of milk, with the average cow producing 6,530 litres. Various inputs are required to produce this milk. Figure 13 illustrates the volume of resources (excluding water) required to process milk in the South West, during 2001 (C-Tech, 2002).

Total resource use for the dairy industry, excluding water, amounted to 826,000 tonnes. This equates to 0.42 kg of resources used per litre of milk produced. In 2001, this resource use created £261,000 GVA, or over 20% of the total GVA for the South West agricultural industry (C-Tech, 2002).

Figure 13
Resources required to produce milk in the South West, in 2001

fig 13

What about outputs?

Dairy cows in the South West are responsible for over 11 million tonnes of waste every year, of which over 80% is slurry, 14% farmyard manure and 2% silage effluent. Other wastes include waste milk, plastics, paper and machinery. Most waste milk is caused by antibiotics being found in the milk, which is therefore not fit for human consumption (Environment Agency, 2000a).

Agricultural resource flows

Agriculture in the South West is a resource intensive industry, in particular livestock farming, which required 2.4 million tonnes of feed to produce an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of meat and meat products for consumption. Figure 14 illustrates the estimated resource flows associated with agriculture in the South West.

Nearly a quarter of all agricultural waste in England and Wales is generated in the region, most of which is farmyard manure and slurry (14 million tonnes). From 2004, new agricultural waste management regulations mean that waste disposal or recovery on farms is no longer possible without a waste management licence or exemption. Farmers are required to send their waste to licensed sites, register a licensing exemption should they want to recycle waste on a farm, or apply for a license to continue disposing of waste on a farm.

Resource use and waste generation are therefore notable issues in the agricultural industry.

Figure 14
Resource flows associated with South West agriculture, in 2001

fig 14

* Gross supply covers all raw food materials supplied to the South West before they are used in agriculture or processed.
** Other uses include food for tourists, storage and non-food uses such as oil for soap.
*** Gross consumption is the amount of food available for consumption.
**** Net food consumption is the estimated amount of food consumed excluding pet food, losses of edible food, e.g. during storage, in preparation, as plate-waste, quantities fed to domestic animals and pets, or thrown away.

Sources: C-Tech, 2002; Dairy Council, 2004; Environment Agency, 2000 & 2004a; FAO, 2002; GOSW, 2003; NFU, 2004; Objective One, 2004; South West Observatory, 2002; University of Plymouth, 2003 and Virdee & Causer, 2003