ProBrit flies flag for local growers East Yorkshire lettuce growers are canvassing supermarket buyers to try to convince them to buy more local crops through producer organisations under a scheme known as ProBrit (the Campaign for British Produce). Between them they represent some 126 hectares of protected crops and already supply many of the regional multiples. The group supports its case by the fact that although the multiples claim they like to buy British, the reality is that UK salad vegetables have decreased from 2,728 hectares to 1,296 hectares in the last decade. In the last five years imports have risen from 489,000 tonnes to 602,000 tonnes with static prices and lower producer returns.

However the tone of the plea being sent directly on to buyers’ desks may be seen as confrontational, rather than as an appeal to reason. ProBrit claims that retailers ­ despite their fine words of support ­ have not demonstrated a willingness to understand the economies of the UK sector and have no integrated policy. By using fewer marketing organisations, as distinct from producer groups, as part of a supply rationalisation process, ProBrit, supported by the NFU, claims that growers are now further away from understanding the demands of consumers. Spokesperson Jo Gunnel said: “We can only assume that the retailers are encouraging the development of these large suppliers in order to increase their negotiating strength with them. “They in turn will pass this cost pressure on to the growers.” ProBrit also fears that these moves will lead to an increase in imports which are often cheaper.