point Talk­ing Do we rely too much on im­ported veg?

The People's Friend - - Chat -

YOU don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” as the song says. A few weeks ago su­per­mar­kets were run­ning out of im­ported fresh veg af­ter freak weather in south­ern Europe ru­ined the farm­ers’ har­vests of cour­gettes and salad veg­eta­bles.

It was a wake-up call show­ing just how re­liant we’ve be­come on hav­ing a wide choice of pro­duce al­ways avail­able, no mat­ter what the sea­son.

In the mean­time, amongst the shelves bereft of Mediter­ranean items, lo­cally grown Brussels sprouts, pur­ple sprout­ing broc­coli, cab­bage of var­i­ous colours, car­rots, cau­li­flower, cele­riac, cu­cum­ber, leeks, onions, shal­lots, parsnips, pota­toes, swede, toma­toes and turnips were still avail­able.

Yet to look at the news­pa­pers at the time, you’d have thought we were about to be faced with ma­jor food short­ages.

As a na­tion, we’ve got out of the habit of eat­ing sea­son­ally and pre­par­ing food from scratch. The UK cur­rently im­ports around 50% of its veg­eta­bles and 90% of its fruit.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Farm­ers’ Union, that means we’d have enough fresh fruit and veg for only eight months in the year if we were to rely on what we grow here.

There’s no doubt that it’s lovely to have the choice of buy­ing fresh pro­duce out of sea­son, if it’s avail­able. Equally, the world-wide trade which makes that pos­si­ble is vi­tal to the in­come of grow­ers in many coun­tries, in­clud­ing our own.

The air miles in­volved in that trade, though, isn’t ideal for the en­vi­ron­ment. As ever, we need a bal­ance – some over­seas pro­duce for va­ri­ety and trade, and plenty of lo­cally pro­duced food to please our tastes, our purses and the en­vi­ron­ment!

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