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Western Morning News

CONSUMER FIGHTBACK URGED BY ONLY BUYING LOCAL FOOD



 
09:00 - 08 November 2002
 
 Westcountry Buy Local campaigners have expressed their fury at an
"agreement which flies in the face" of British farmers.

Chris Bradford, co-ordinator of the Rural Development Agency's Buy Local
programme, said the deal will exacerbate already existing problems in
the farming industry.

He explained: "We are getting all this talk about promoting local
produce as a way forward and then the Government turns its back on us,
promoting the sale of foreign food at such a costly expense. What can we
understand of this?

"There is just one way of fighting the Government back and that is by
buying only local food."

Michael Hart, chairman of the Small and Family Farms Alliance, also
encouraged consumers to buy local.

He said: "Farmers don't want subsidies, but a fair share of the retail
price and fair competition.

"The deal which Britain has struck with Thailand is a clear signal that
we are unwanted and expendable. Will imports of food from Thailand be
subject to the same food safety, animal welfare and environmental
standards as those expected by law of UK farmers?

"We very much doubt it with the record of imported eggs from Spain when
two people in the Midlands died of salmonella.

"I find it unbelievable that at a time when farming in the UK has such
major problems that our own government is going to promote sales of Thai
agricultural produce in direct competition with UK farmers.

"How many other deals has this government done like this? I know
agriculture has a multifunctional role with food production and
environmental care, but I didn't know that role included helping arms
sales."

Angela Browning, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton and former
farming minister, said there were "real concerns" about the health and
welfare standards of meat, particularly Thai chicken.

The European Union is responsible for policing European food production
standards on exporting countries outside the EU. But many observers fear
that the enforcement process is practically impossible and that if
standards were properly enforced the price advantage enjoyed by
countries outside the EU would vanish. Mrs Browning said she was not
satisfied that existing checks could guarantee that countries outside
Europe were producing meat to the same high standards as within the UK.
But she said that lax labelling laws meant that consumers could not
always identify where meat had been sourced, particularly in processed
products. She said: "There are some parts of the world where there are
real concerns about the way food is produced, in terms of things like
welfare standards and the use of growth hormones. When I was an
agriculture minister, for example, we were constantly having to lobby
the Chinese government about the things going into the chickens they
were exporting. It would make me very concerned if there were more of
this meat appearing on our shelves.

"It is all very well to try to source the cheapest of the cheap, but
most people are looking for the reassurances on quality and safety that
come with British standards. There does not seem to be a thorough enough
checking system on imports to guarantee those standards. As someone with
experience in these matters I try to source British and source locally."