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What Is The Future Of Our Fruit And Veg?

Chris Bavin addresses where food comes from and how we can champion local produce. Best known as the Co-presenter of 5 series of BBC1’s hugely successful series Eat Well For Less? With Gregg Wallace, Chris is also an advocate of eating seasonally and supporting small independent retailers. In addition to Eat Well for Less, Chris has presented the following BBC programmes - Tomorrow’s Food with Dara O’Brian, The Truth about Meat documentary and he is co-presenter of BBC1’s returning series Food:Truth or Scare with Gloria Hunniford. With this background, he is well-placed to explain what steps we can take to combat food tax from Brexit and how to have a socially conscious diet. 

Where does our food come from? How can we eat more locally? These are two questions that are being asked more and more over the last 10 years or so. Only fifteen years ago the sight of a muddy potato or a rugged beef farmer adorning the front (yes very front) of a supermarket would have been unheard of!

A decade ago, provenance was fast becoming a big buzzword, as was eating locally, eating in season and ‘food miles’! There appeared to be a real appetite for knowing where your food was sourced, how far it had travelled, how it had travelled and the back story of the grower themselves. But, this desire for knowledge has made its way into the social consciousness and is now an environmental choice. Maybe we Brits are becoming a little nostalgic or patriotic!

The question of provenance isn't just a privileged question asked by those frequenting the farmers’ markets. Since 23rd June 2016, (the day of the Brexit vote!) it has become an issue that matters to everyone - and I mean everyone! If you are a large or average consumer of fruit and veg or you eat no fruit or veg at all this will affect you!

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"Desire for [food] knowledge has made its way into the social consciousness"

Where does our fruit and veg come from?

Well, that can only be answered by starting on a ‘world-wide’ scale!

However, when it comes to quality the UK relies quite heavily, although not exclusively, on our European neighbours for a huge percentage of our fruit and veg. This is because the shorter the shipping time, the better and more economical the produce. Furthermore, even if the produce doesn’t get sourced from the Europe, it almost certainly travels through it to get to us!

What is the future of our fruit and veg?

There are a lot of trade-offs the UK has done with the EU.  For example, some fruit from outside the EU will have an added duty (an extra import tax), this is designed to protect what is being grown in Europe. For example, if you wanted to import grapes from outside the European Union during the European grape growing season, it would cost you a lot more. The aim is to dissuade you from doing so, which is why fruit from Europe has no duty added.

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"Only fifteen years ago the sight of a muddy potato or a rugged beef farmer adorning the front (yes very front) of a supermarket would have been unheard of!"

Where do we go from here?

Will we have to pay duties, taxes and additional levies on our food imported from Europe after Brexit? With the erratic currency market and the weakened pound since Brexit, will the consumer have to pay more for fruit and veg? It’s become clear that eating locally is intrinsically linked to our future in the EU.

How do you control and minimise the variables in a volatile market?

We need to look closer to home for our suppliers! Although this is by no means a simple solution, as we won't ever have total control over the multitude of things affecting the cost of producing a product in the UK. For example, labour - can we get enough workers? Where from? How much? Oil, petrol, diesel – are all used on the farms and for transporting the produce and machinery – tractors, packing and grading machines – these are all incredibly expensive and often imported from Europe, primarily Holland and Italy. Having said all the above, we really have very little or no choice but to become more self-sufficient in the UK!

So, what can we consumers – the great buying public do?

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"We need to think seriously about switching as much as possible to buying British."

We must start to support the UK growers right now! We cannot expect them to increase production at the flick of a switch. We need to help all our UK growers prepare for this and be as strong as possible now so they can gradually increase their production.

This is more than just politics and economics. If we want to minimise the impact of these changes on our wallets by minimising the cost increases to our food, we can't just use a few buzzwords and put a few pretty pictures of farmers in our retail outlets. We need to think seriously about switching as much as possible to buying British.

It seems to me that this issue is no longer about making a "lifestyle choice". This is a crucial decision that will impact the cost and availability of our food in the future.

You can catch Chris on Britain in Bloom in 2018 and on the speaking circuit where he can share his insights into how we can all protect the future of our fruit and veg.

For further information or to book a speaker, call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070+44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email info@speakerscorner.co.uk.

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