French salad growers have been advised to ramp up exports to the UK during the more lucrative winter period when they can compete more easily on price.

At a conference held under the auspices of the French Embassy last week, it was revealed that the country has held on to its number two spot in terms of salad volumes exported to the UK, even though its share has fallen. In 2001 it accounted for 17% of the 189,300-tonne total, but that has now dropped to 10%.

However, speciality lettuce is expanding its 9% share of total salad imports and is an area where French producers shine. Loire Valley growers of lambs lettuce that have conducted a promotional drive through Sopexa have seen sales rise from 308 tonnes a year to 1,500t in the same period.

Delegates who also visited branches of M&S, Sainsbury's and Tesco in London were told by Nick Smith of distributor Planet Produce that there were opportunities for lines like baby leaf and wild rocket.