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Supermarkets report is food for thought

PUBLISHED: 07:08 26 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:05 22 October 2010

MARK NICHOLLS

A report published today has outlined what it claims is a stark choice consumers in Norfolk and Suffolk have to make between having more superstores and locally produced food.

A report published today has outlined what it claims is a stark choice consumers in Norfolk and Suffolk have to make between having more superstores and locally produced

food.

Based on a survey conducted in a group of east Suffolk villages, the document says that people have a clear choice between more superstores or more local food, shops and jobs, linking people with the places and landscapes where they live.

The document, The Real Choice, has been published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Plunkett Foundation, a body which strives to improve the livelihoods of people in rural areas.

The research has been carried

by Caroline Cranbrook, who is the Country Land and Business Association's (CLA) food champion

for the eastern region.

It suggests that local foods in the surveyed area flourished and grew after a planned superstore was turned down. It said that regional food suppliers rose; the overall number of shops stayed the same rather than declined; local market towns retained their butchers, bakers and fresh vegetable outlets; and the numbers of farm shops and farmers markets increased.

The report's publishers say that if this can happen in Suffolk, it can happen elsewhere, and to achieve this they want to see:

Strategies and policies at national level to recognise the public benefits of local food networks and to reflect their interests;

Each local authority to have stronger planning policies and a retail strategy in place to protect the local business community and stipulate local sourcing;

Firm action from the Competition Commission to stem the supermarket spread into convenience stores and prevent further distortion of the food retail market;

Supermarket chains to stock more local foods and promote them, and to give more flexibility to their outlets to use local supply systems;

Support from government and supermarkets for much clearer food labelling so shoppers know where their food is from and can make informed choices.

Tom Oliver, CPRE's head of rural policy said: "If we want the opportunity to choose, we have to plan and take action consistent with what we want. This report is backed by eight years of real evidence. It is a striking success story for local foods. It shows that there is a viable alternative to being spoon-fed by the supermarkets."

Piers Pratt, chairman of the Norfolk branch of the CLA, said the results endorsed all that the CLA had said in campaigns for local goods and services.

"If we are to keep rural businesses in business and rural services alive we need to begin in our own communities. Where we can, we must support village shops and post offices and choose local suppliers. It is no use complaining about the effect of imports if we do not buy the goods produced on our own doorsteps," he said.

The report has also been endorsed by leading chefs and food commentators included Raymond Blanc, Prue Leith and Gordon Ramsay.

COMMENT - Page 18


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