Supermarkets should sell UK organic goods, not imports

Some British supermarkets are still favouring certain imported organic food over meat and vegetables produced in the UK, according to a survey conducted by the Soil Association.

Of all the leading supermarkets in the UK, Asda, Morrisons and Tesco were amongst the worst for importing organic rather than supporting and selling home-grown food, particularly in the case of some meat products.

The report showed that only one fifth of fresh organic pork available at Asda and Morrisons was from farms in the UK, even though around 95% of their non-organic fresh pork was reared nationally.

Tesco also favoured imported organic red meat, with only half of their organic beef and pork from the UK.

But despite this, the survey showed that there had been an all-round increase in the amount of organic food sourced from farms in the UK, up from 72% in 2003 to 76% last year.

Organic onions were up by 20% on last year, showing the highest improvement, with Waitrose, Tesco and the Co-op all helping the percentage of home-grown organic onions sold in the UK to go up to 55%.

Marks & Spencer and Asda both made a marked improvement in the number of UK-grown organic potatoes, but the Co-op was the best, now supplying 100% UK organic.

However, British organic apples had only gone up by 5%, which was possibly because crops grown in warmer countries tended to have less blemishes, according to the Soil Association’s policy director, Peter Melchett.

“It is unacceptable for staple food to be imported when it is in season in the UK and in plentiful supply,” he pointed out.

Mr Melchett said that apart from failing to support the UK’s organic food industry by turning to other suppliers abroad, importing more food was adding to global warming by producing unnecessary greenhouse gas and carbon emissions by delivering food around the world that could easily be bought at home.

“Buying British organic supports British farmers, guarantees the highest standards of animal welfare and helps British wildlife thrive,” he stated. “It also cuts down unnecessary food miles, reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Tesco, for instance, accounts for around 30% of all the organic food sold in the UK, and their beef and pork buyers could do much more to support organic farmers in this country.”

The Government has set a target to source 70% of in-season organic food from the UK by 2010 as part of the Organic Action Plan, launched in 2002.

Although some supermarkets are already meeting or exceeding this target, Mr Melchett said the Soil Association was still concerned about the high levels of imported beef, pork and apples.

A spokesperson from Tesco told edie that they worked hard with British suppliers to increase the amount of organic products sourced from farms in the UK.

“Sometimes we do need to import to meet customer expectations on all-year round availability or value,” she said. “But all of our organic lamb, chicken, milk and eggs are from the UK, along with many other organic fresh produce lines when they are in season.”

By Jane Kettle

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