Is fruit & veg going pear-shaped?

Posted on 31 Oct 2011 in Choose Seasonal, Go Local | 0 comments

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It turns out Britain is world-class when it comes to growing pears… woo-hoo, who knew?!

Apparently we have the perfect combo of blustery rain and intermittent shine to produce some of the tastiest pears in the world!

The snag is, we seem to have fallen out of love with them… we used to harvest 40,000 tonnes of pears 15 years ago, but now it’s down to 28,000.

Indeed, last week famous chef Michel Roux made an enthused case for the Great British Pear because he’s convinced they can’t be beaten, but he is worried that, with the drop in interest, we may lose British pears altogether.

But how did this happen? Well it’s partly down to supermarkets and partly down to us shoppers.

Supermarkets always want to source fruit or veg in the way that’s the most efficient and cheap for them; that’s what they need to do to operate on the scale that they do and make the profit they need to make.

So, for any given type of fruit or veg, from pears to bananas and peas to potatoes, the dream scenario for a supermarket is to find one champion pear, or banana or pea or potato out of 100’s of varieties. Sourcing very large volumes of a few varieties is much cheaper and more efficient for them to handle. They will hunt for the most robust variety, the one that can be flown around the world and ripen on the way, the one they can buy in the biggest bulk at the cheapest price.

So now, compared to 15 years ago, pears are a few pence cheaper with a bit less bruising and a lot less taste. Despite our ideal pear-growing conditions, Britain now imports 80% of the pears we eat.

The problem with all this is that there is one big hidden cost to saving a few pence: it’s taking the good out of our food. The quality of our fruit and veg is slowly declining because we are handing our decisions over to the supermarkets. Meanwhile, they simply say they are giving us what we want. They say that when they switch the supply of pears or bananas or peas or potatoes we don’t fuss, we just carry on buying whatever they supply.

So the choice is ours… Everything we buy is a vote for more of the same. When we buy British pears it’s a vote for quality and choice. It supports British jobs, it keeps money in the British economy and it prevents the waste of having to fly pears all around Europe.

Buy them or lose them! ;-)


Royalty-free stock photo from

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