Copy of press release for the launch of The Real Choice: How local foods can survive the supermarket onslaught sent at the request of Lady Caroline Cranbrook.
Press release issued on behalf of CPRE and the Plunkett Foundation
The Real Choice report  published by CPRE  and Plunkett Foundation  is based on surveys by Caroline Cranbrook  over eight years monitoring a broad area of towns and villages in East Suffolk. It reveals that local foods are flourishing and growing since a planned superstore was turned down.
NOTE FOR EDITORS
Six leading chefs, commentators and celebrities from the worlds of food and farming - Richard Benson, Raymond Blanc, Jimmy Doherty, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Prue Leith and Gordon Ramsay - have endorsed this report . Barry Gardiner MP, Minister for Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs has written the Foreword.
The benefits have been huge:
7 small stores prospering with more farm shops and markets;
7 more businesses adding value and offering choice;
7 more food people can trace and trust;
7 local food tourism taking off;
7 local countryside well-managed and serving the community;
7 local stores keeping towns and villages alive and people in touch with each other.
The latest survey found the number of local and regional food suppliers in the area had risen from 300 to 370 with a wider range of local products being sold. The overall number of shops had stayed constant at 81 - bucking the national trend of decline - and the local market towns had retained their butchers, bakers, fish shops and fresh vegetable outlets. Numbers of farm shops and farmers' markets had grown.
It has happened in Suffolk: it can happen elsewhere. To achieve this CPRE and Plunkett are calling for change including:
7 strategies and policies at national level to recognise the public benefits of local food networks and to reflect their interests;
7 each local authority to have stronger planning policies and a retail strategy in place to protect the local business community and stipulate local sourcing;
7 firm action from the Competition Commission to stem the supermarket spread into convenience stores and prevent further distortion of the food retail market;
7 supermarket chains to stock more local foods and promote them, and to give more flexibility to their outlets to use local supply systems;
7 support from Government and supermarkets for much clearer food labelling so shoppers know where their food is from and can make informed choices.
The East Suffolk experience of a thriving local food network should inspire action across the country. On current trends, the supermarket onslaught is set to wipe out most independent shops and the local food economies they support. But it doesn't have to be like this.
Tom Oliver, CPRE's Head of Rural Policy said:
'If we want the opportunity to choose, we have to plan and take action consistent with what we want. This report is backed by eight years of real evidence. It is a striking success story for local foods. It shows that there is a viable alternative to being spoon-fed by the supermarkets.
'There is a real choice facing local, regional and national Government: to support a future for local food suppliers, independent stores, their communities and landscapes. If we want, they can thrive alongside national and global businesses. Or we can do nothing and watch them die.'
- END -
1. Copies of The Real Choice: How local foods can survive the supermarket onslaught by Caroline Cranbrook and CPRE are available to the press from the press office (020 7981 2880) as hard copies or pdf files, and to the public from CPRE Publications (020 7981 2866 or email@example.com) price #5.00. Copies will also be available to download from our website - www.cpre.org.uk - from Monday 26 June.
2. CPRE, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, is a charity which promotes the beauty, tranquillity and diversity of rural England. We advocate positive solutions for the long-term future of the countryside. Founded in 1926, we have 60,000 supporters and a branch in every county. President: Sir Max Hastings. Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.
3. The Plunkett Foundation (www.plunkett.co.uk) improves the livelihoods of people in rural areas through co-operative and social enterprise. It works both nationally and internationally with partners from the public and private sectors to promote and implement enterprise-based self-help approaches to rural problems. The Village Retail Services Association (ViRSA) is an activity of the Plunkett Foundation which promotes and supports the development of community-owned shops as a sustainable solution to the maintenance of essential services in rural communities. ViRSA and CPRE are working together to establish shopwatch, an early warning system which alerts the two organisations to villages which are threatened with the loss of their last village shop.
4. The Cranbrook family have lived and farmed in East Suffolk since 1912. Caroline has a life-long interest in the countryside, its people and also the food it produces. Following her first food web survey in 1997 she has campaigned on a variety of rural issues, particularly the local food chain and the importance of maintaining an economically viable livestock industry linked to local abattoirs. She is a keen gardener and with the help of her family collects rare vegetable varieties, mainly from Eastern Europe. Caroline was awarded an OBE for services to the red meat industry in the East of England in the Queen's birthday honours 2006.
5. Six leading chefs, commentators and celebrities have endorsed The Real Choice: How local foods can survive the supermarket onslaught:
Richard Benson, author of The Farm
'This is an urgently important document that will confirm a factual basis for many people's suspicions and fears about large-scale food retailing. Supermarkets trade on myths about free markets and increased choice, but in fact they benefit from state subsidies, and often in the long-term lead to a reduction of local food outlets. This report shows that their dominance can be effectively and sensibly challenged in order to benefit whole communities, and make them more sustainable.'
Raymond Blanc, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
'I completely support this initiative and always have. Our growers have been undermined by the large retailers who dictate so much our food chain. In my role as a chef, I try to actively promote and work with farmers within our close community, I find that we both feel enriched as a result of this. I feel we should put pressure on the supermarkets to welcome and allocate space on their shelves for our local producers - if it is possible in Italy then why not in England?'
Jimmy Doherty, TV's Jimmy's Farm
'Local food economies are of the utmost importance to the sustainability of rural communities. They bring great benefits to the countryside both in terms of safeguarding rural jobs, sustaining local retailers, providing outlets for local produce and conserving the British countryside. The growth in supermarkets threatens the existence of independent retailers thus killing the heart of the local towns and villages, eliminating enterprise and reducing consumer choice. If we are to ensure the survival of our rural communities and regional food heritage, there is an urgent need to build positive relationships between our local food networks and the global food chain. Caroline Cranbrook has shown, through this report, some of the ways that this may be achieved thus offering a beacon of hope for the future of farming, for rural businesses, local jobs and for the conservation of the countryside as a whole.'
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage
'You can't beat the quality of fresh, seasonal, local produce. In a perfect world, it would be at the heart of every household's shopping and cooking habit. This report is encouraging news for all those who would like to see the network of dedicated small producers in this country grow and prosper. It should serve as an excellent and encouraging model for local food communities all over Britain.'
Prue Leith, restaurateur
'This report is a further boost for the good food movement, which I approve of because I think shopping, buying, cooking and eating should be pleasurable. And somehow doing all that while supporting local producers is very pleasurable indeed. '
Gordon Ramsay, chef
'Local food matters because it's fresh, it's seasonal, it's distinctive and it tastes great. The producers care about the quality of their food, and it matters to them if we don't. The people in CPRE's report are producing and selling great local food and are surviving against the odds. We need more like them and they need our support to succeed.'
6. CPRE is grateful to the Suffolk Preservation Society for their support in producing this report.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Tom Oliver (Head of Rural Policy)
020 7981 2800 (switchboard)
020 7981 2838 (direct)
07818 450802 (mobile)
Graeme Willis (Rural Policy Campaigner)
020 7981 2800 (switchboard)
020 7981 2841 (direct)
01206 825206 (home)
07739 332797 (mobile)
01728 663543 (home)
Gill Withers (ViRSA Manager)
01993 810730 (work)
Nick Schoon (Director - Communications)
020 7981 2800 (switchboard)
020 7981 2816 (direct)
020 8290 6822 (home)
07739 332796 (mobile)
Nicola S. Frank (Press Officer)
020 7981 2880 (press office)
An ISDN audio line is available - contact the press office for details.
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