Defra recently published figures showing that carbon dioxide emissions from the food sector had rocketed 6% in the last year. That means the food chain from farmers to retailers pumped out more than 18 million tonnes of greenhouse gas, with even bigger increases predicted next year.
We all have a responsibility to tackle this shocking statistic and there is one easy way to do so: buy British produce.
In an ideal world, and as the horticulture board chairman representing British growers, I'd like to see retailers buying all the produce that could be grown in the UK from our growers. But that's not going to happen in the real world, and we have tried to step away from that.
But I do want shoppers to have the choice whether or not to buy British - and I want them to know what that means. It's about environmental standards that are safeguarding our countryside, it's about food miles and it's about reconnecting with the food you eat.
Sales of British produce are on the increase thanks to innovations in growing techniques and the use of new varieties. Soft fruit are a well-documented case, where the growing season has been extended to 20 weeks a year. A less well-recognised one might be salad or new potatoes. Growers can now supply fresh potatoes for
up to nine months a year.
And I believe it will always be better for the environment to grow things here, even in greenhouses, than to truck and fly it from the other side of the world.
I myself grow peas for Birds Eye and I know produce doesn't have to be fresh to be good - frozen is a seriously undervalued category. If it allows great-tasting peas to be supplied all year round from growers in this country, what is the point in bringing in hand-picked peas from Guatemala? It's a shame we only talk about fresh produce.
We need to pull all these strands together in a coherent message to consumers. I think the Red Tractor could prove critical for this. The assurance schemes that it originally represented are all taken for granted now, so we should start using it instead to communicate the environmentally friendly, sustainable, and above all British advantages of produce bearing the Tractor logo.
But all this can only happen if it remains profitable to grow fruit and vegetables. Retailers are in danger of stifling innovation before we can really get it going, by continually pushing prices down.