Buying Local Plums Proves to be Difficult in England
It's the best British plum harvest in years but no one is buying... Farmers and good food shoppers are enraged as supermarkets favour cheaper European imports over the local ones.
The National Farmers' Union said farms have hundreds of tons of plums picked and ready to ship but the stores aren't buying.
Photo: risdmuseum: Plums, William Hough, 1819-1897
Apparently, the English plum season started early this year, owing to the warm weather and it's been a vintage year for the Victoria plum, which should be widely available now. However, the National Farmers' Union said that "the situation in the British plum market is critical. Imported produce is being dumped on our market and sold at less than the cost of production."
Imported plums were being bought at 35p a pint from producers, compared to 70p for the British fruit. Both were sold in the stores for £1.
Photo: goldenagepaintings: Still Life, Oliver Clare, 1853-1927
It is clear, as the NFU said, that major supermarkets are favouring the imported plums, despite their talking the good talk, because they make more money from selling them. As a result, many plum growers have decided against picking their crop, instead leaving it to rot.
Some supermarkets are denying this: Asda (Walmart) claimed that 35% of the plums sold in the stores are British grown. They seem to be missing the point: that means that 65% are foreign. A Sainsbury's spokesman said that they "buy more British plums than any other retailer and we will continue to support our British growers."
However, the NFU has done an anecdotal survey of several supermarkets and found that they are stocking plums from Spain, Israel, Portugal and France and putting up misleading signage which promotes British plums (and other fruits) as in season but are located under imported varieties.
Photo: B. Alter
It's not just the British. In Ontario, Loblaws, Canada's biggest supermarket, is once more proudly trumpeting its "Grown Close to Home" campaign which supposedly favours local vegetables. Except the corn is labelled "Grown in Canada" and it is sold shucked and packaged in plastic. Yummy.
At the same time, fresh, local farm grown corn is readily available: piled up on stands on every road leading to the store.
More on Local Food
Canadian Supermarket Chain Loblaws' "Grown Close to Home" Foods...Aren't
Eating Local Food : The Movement, Locavores and More
Buyer Beware: ' Local ' Food In Britain Comes From As Far as New Zealand