Sept 18, 2012: A significant fall in self-sufficiency in Britain is endangering staple fruit and vegetable crops, says the NFU. Tomatoes, cucumbers and spring onions, are all currently ‘endangered’ due to a significant fall in self-sufficiency over the last 10 years, it warns.

Four more crops – Brussels sprouts, lettuce, leeks and cauliflower – are also ‘at risk’ due to a steady shrinkage in production and consumption over the last decade, it says. In a report, ‘Catalyst for Change’, the NFU cites figures showing the UK’s self-sufficiency in vegetable production has fallen from 73 per cent in 1998 to 60 per cent in 2010. While self-sufficiency in fruit production has improved slightly over this period. It currently stands at just 38 per cent. The report claims that, with returns to cereal growers significantly higher than those enjoyed by the horticulture sector, it is ‘increasingly likely’ that fruit, vegetable and potato producers will move into cereal production unless margins and profitability levels improve. It blames poor supply chain practices and a short-term approach to relationships between growers, intermediaries and retailers for ‘stripping millions of pounds out of the fresh produce sector while damaging growers’ ability to produce fruit and vegetables’. The report lists several examples of ‘poor business practice’ that breach the Groceries Supply Code of Practice. The NFU is now calling on retailers, intermediaries and processors to sign up to its ‘Fruit & Veg Pledge’ to show their commitment to best business practice.

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