‘Food miles’ an export challenge

UK supermarket chain Tesco’s planned “carbon friendly” measures, such as the introduction of carbon-counting labelling and restrictions on airfreighted food stocks, has raised concerns about possible knock-on effects for the South African export industry.
Issue Date: 13 April 2007

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UK is a major market for SA fresh fruit and vegetables. Tesco plans to cut airfreighted produce from 2% to 3% to less than 1%, a move which may impact on the profits of exporters of berries and designer vegetables that use airfreight.

Chris Charter, from Well-Pict South Africa, a company that runs several strawberry farms in the George area and exports to supermarkets in the UK, said, “It does concern us because we are building our business on exports and strawberries cannot be sent by ship. Flying is the only option.” While the focus on the environment is welcome, the measures will have unintended consequences for farmers in the southern hemisphere who rely on exports.

Richard Worthington, coordinator of the SA Climate Action Network, said potential negative impacts would include creating disadvantages against produce from developing countries in world markets and to therefore undo the work of development and trade projects based on exports. Anton Rabe (above), CEO of the Deciduous Fruit Producers’ Trust, said the debate was in its infancy. “At this stage it has been noted, discussion within the industry has started and how we will respond is difficult to say.” Stefan Conradie, product manager for the African Pome and Stone Fruit Association, said his organisation was planning a study that would look at the issue.

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Martin Dunnett, UK trading director for fresh fruit marketer Capespan, said green issues were “key drivers” in the UK market and retailer demands for environmental accreditation in terms of waste management recycling and pesticide reduction should be recognised. But he added that many growers had responded positively to market demands, and that this was a chance for them to be more involved in setting the agenda rather than responding to the latest demands. – African Eye News Service/West Cape News