U.K. govt calls on consumers to buy local, ditch imports

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U.K. govt calls on consumers to buy local, ditch imports

The U.K. government is reinforcing its message to 'buy British' in a forthcoming speech encouraging the population to ditch imported products and instead focus on home-grown produce.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister Owen Paterson is due to address the Oxford Farming Conference either today (Jan. 7) or tomorrow where he will give a speech focusing on persuading consumers to snub imported goods.

The conference will also center on where the opportunities for agriculture lie, how they can be funded and what changes might be necessary to make the most of them.

English apples organically grown panorama - Flickr_Vidya Crawley

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Vidya Crawley

www.freshfruitportal.com obtained a copy of Paterson's draft speech which he will present to thousands of farmers, growers, producers, union officials and industry experts attending the conference – one of England's leading annual agriculture conventions.

In it, he questions why just under a quarter of all food consumed in the U.K. is imported from abroad and wants to see more done to grow high quality fruit and vegetables to supply the local market.

"As British farmers and food producers you know that we grow some of the best food in the world here – so why is 24 per cent of the food eaten in the UK imported when it could be produced here?" the draft speech says.

"We have a top-class fruit and vegetable sector which produces everything from green beans to strawberries, yet we imported £8 billion (US$12.11 billion) of fruit and vegetables in 2012. We can’t grow mangoes or pineapples, but we can encourage UK consumers and food businesses to buy Scottish raspberries or Kent apples.

"This is a huge opportunity, and it’s up to all of us – farmers, food manufacturers and government – to take action.  By buying seasonal fruit and vegetables we can improve the nation’s health, help the environment and boost the economy."

Owen Paterson MP

Owen Paterson MP

The speech discusses "phenomenal opportunities to increase production for the domestic and exports markets".

"Farming contributes over £9 billion (US$14.75 billion) a year to the UK economy. Food and drink is our largest manufacturing sector. The whole supply chain is worth nearly £100 billion (US$163.9 billion), employing nearly four million people.

"I firmly believe there is room for further growth, not least as a result of the industry’s robust traceability, rigorous production standards and top quality produce. You have great opportunities to grow thanks to your well-deserved, world-wide reputation.

"The world’s population already stands at over seven billion and is predicted to reach over 9 billion by 2050. Tastes and diets are becoming more westernised as middle classes continue to grow."

The National Farmers' Union welcomes the sentiments of the minister’s speech and has been heavily involved in its own ‘Buy British’ campaign over the last few weeks. The union has worked with scores of farmers up and down the country to produce a video to publicly thank British consumers for their support over 2013.

It also ran a marketing drive in the run up to Christmas encouraging more people to spend their money on U.K. produce and has created its own charter calling for a commitment to put British farming at the heart of the challenge of feeding the entire population in the future.

So far, more than 2,000 farmers, retail outlets, politicians, food service industry experts and consumer groups have signed up.




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