Buy British - we know we should
Does anyone want to ever hear the B word again? The 31st January 2020 saw us limp over the line and now we are out, without really being out of Europe. Certainly, we can look forward to endless discussions and arguments before finally disentangling ourselves from this very costly divorce. Yet all that aside (if that’s at all possible) I can’t help wondering what it actually means for the UK moving forward. Yes, this is where we are right now but what do we want our food future to be?
Is it time to Back Britain again?
As a youngster I can vaguely remember the ‘We’re Backing Britain’ slogans that used to adorn cars and billboard posters and surely if there was ever a time now is when we really do get behind Britain and buy British. This might be difficult because we seem to have a complex relationship with our food. On the one hand we grow some amazing produce but unlike the French we don’t seem to revere. our national cuisine. If anything, we like to poach ideas from all over the globe and create our versions that we then take to our hearts: chicken tikka masala being one of them.
Ditch the avocados and try something more seasonal instead
Yet British food producers are extraordinary at what they do and isn’t it time we celebrated their amazing skill and dedication? Shouldn’t we replace some of the exotic veg and focus on eating locally grown ingredients instead? Actually, it doesn’t have to be such a binary choice. For example, in Kent, Thanet earth exists. 90 hectares of land is under greenhouse making it the largest complex in the UK. Here, 16 million peppers (once seen as being slightly exotic) 13 million cucumbers and around 225 million tomatoes are grown. Who is buying? Well, all the big supermarkets and these humble veg provide between 8 and 11 per cent of the UK’s annual crop of key ingredients in this sector.
We can cut food miles and boost UK trade by buying British
So, we can do it if there’s a will and a market and no they aren’t contributing to the carbon emission problem as carbon dioxide from their combined heat and power systems is absorbed by the very things they grow. In addition, any additional unwanted power created is exported to the grid. I guess what I am saying is that we could work hard at becoming self-sufficient and support our national food producers. Currently, for example we import a lot of fresh produce from Holland. By 2019 over £1 billion imports made their way across the Channel to the UK in 50 000 lorries. Why aren’t we growing British onions? My allotment yielded enough onions to keep my kitchen supplied right through the winter and I chopped the last one only at the end of January.
Photo Jonathan Mast
Check just where produce is coming from
In addition, Perthshire in Scotland, is a massive producer of fresh fruit and the conditions up there are fantastic for raspberries and strawberries. For the past three years or so plans for extending the menu to include cherry growing is also underway. We are renowned for our extraordinary apple collection but still insist on bringing in apples from around the world. When will we begin to cherish what we have? When will we put our money where our mouth is and begin to support British produce?
After all you can buy:
Apples, Artichoke, Asparagus, Aubergine, Beans, Beetroot, Blackberries, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Cherries, Chestnuts, Chicory, Cucumber, Garlic, Greengages, Jerusalem Artichokes, Kale, Leeks Lettuce, Loganberries, Mushrooms, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Peppers, Plums, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Radishes, Redcurrants, Rocket, Samphire, Sorrel, Spinach, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Squash, Strawberries, Swedes, Sweetcorn, Tayberries, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress and the list goes on.
We've even got vegans covered
Yet, it’s not just fresh fruit and vegetables that we grow particularly successfully in Britain, but we also have some pretty technologically advanced food related production units. Take Quorn in the North east for example. The state-of-the-art production facility at Billingham will now be able to produce around 20 000 tonnes of Quorn annually. The company invested 150 million into its new plant to cope with the new ‘flexitarian’ and vegan interest amongst consumers. In addition, this plant hopes to reduce its carbon emissions further. They have already dropped by 35% compared to 2012.
If companies, as forward-thinking as Quorn feel that the UK is a great place to do business then surely, in this pivotal year and beyond we need to support Britain.
Whether you were a ‘leaver or remainer’ this is the situation we find ourselves in right now. Consumers can vote with their wallets and amend our shopping habits accordingly. Urban farms, green walls, hydroponics are all cutting greenhouse gases and bringing food production within picking distance. You can even regrow some foods once you have used most of them. Bok Choy, celery, carrot tops, garlic chives and lettuce are just examples.
Right now, we have a great opportunity to transform how we farm, what we buy and how we eat.
Politicians have talked up Brexit but now we are facing tough negotiations and a final exit isn’t it time we all did our bit? Quorn’s Chief Executive thinks so: “We see decades of growth ahead of us as consumers respond to growing environmental concerns around meat production. We provide dramatic sustainability benefits compared to meat and with this new facility will enhance those benefits further. Sustainability is at the heart of our organisation and we are committed to ensuring we are being responsible with the carbon footprint of our business.” So, by reducing food miles, packaging, plastics and carbon emissions surely buying British makes so much sense right now and into the future. With support from the British people we can create jobs in our top quality Food and Drink Industry and that has to be good for everyone. Agreed?