SIR; We at the National Farmers' Retail and Markets Association feel that we must take issue with the message conveyed in Richard Clarke's story about a recent British Market Research Bureau consumer survey, headlined '61% not bothered about food miles'.

Taking the converse of that statement as a starting point, the finding that almost two out of five people do care and deliberately choose British fruit and veg, a proportion that rises to more than half of those aged 50 or older, is surely a cause for celebration. After all, the concept of food miles only entered our collective understanding a decade ago.

In fact, our own research, which is conducted annually through YouGov, has consistently found that one third of people buy from farm shops or farmers' markets. In effect, that makes this sector first in the rankings for local food retailing.

Other work to discover consumers' motivations has found that environmental issues feature particularly strongly. The simple truth is that shoppers want to meet producers in order to find out more about areas such as varieties available and seasonality. In other words, they want to connect with farming and the landscape around them.

The fact that this change in shopping habits is able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 98% compared with supermarket food distribution, according to research published by Sustain in 2002, is a great benefit. We know that enlightened self-interest influences food buying choices. So the pain that climate change is already inflicting can only strengthen the argument for minimising the distance food travels before purchase.

With consumers seeking out locally grown produce, looking at labels and asking questions, millions of small steps have already brought the issue of food miles a very long way. We think that food miles will matter to even more people in the future.