Farmers see red, not green

PUBLISHED: 04:16 18 January 2007 | UPDATED: 10:29 24 May 2010

FARMERS in Somerset are seeing red after being urged by the Government to 'go green' to beat off foreign competition. Farmers in Cheddar, Draycott and Shipham are among those who have been criticised for not being environmentally friendly enough, because

FARMERS in Somerset are seeing red after being urged by the Government to 'go green' to beat off foreign competition. Farmers in Cheddar, Draycott and Shipham are among those who have been criticised for not being environmentally friendly enough, because they use greenhouses.But the farmers have hit back, saying it is because consumers want to eat food that is not in season and supermarket giants do not buy locally. Claims that it is more carbon efficient to import goods from Spain were made at a recent national conference. A Cheddar farmer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "The problem is people are now demanding food when it isn't in season. They want strawberries all year round, and in order for us to grow them here, we need to use greenhouses or a poly tunnel heating system."If people ate what was in season, such as strawberries in summer and cauliflowers in winter, we wouldn't have these problems."Some studies have suggested that it is more carbon efficient to grow tomatoes in Spain and import them to Britain, rather than growing them locally. The farmer said: "We wouldn't have had to do this 100 years ago. People cooked food that was in season and didn't have a choice about it. Now we don't even think about food. People pop to the local shop and expect everything on demand. "Many of us are used to convenient microwave food. Who's to say where the ingredients for them come from?"Elaine Spencer-White, of Somerset Food Links, an organisation which works with councils and farmers to encourage the sale of local produce, agrees that farmers and growers can lose out to foreign imports. She said: "They suffer when crops that can grow in Britain are displaced by cheaper imports of lower standard." People usually look at price rather than origin. They prefer cheap rather than local. Britain has a minimum wage and higher fuel prices, which can make food production more expensive."South West NFU spokesman Ian Johnson added: "We must remember that import and export works both ways. We may well be importing European tomatoes, but a lot of British beef is exported to the continent."Mr Johnson, agreeing that the problem is consumer driven added: "Everyone is used to getting what they want when they want it. If they want summer fruit in winter then the shops will obviously have to import it."If people want these sorts of foods in the colder months, they need to be more understanding when farmers put in a poly tunnel to grow strawberries.

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