Market Failure?: Can the traditional market survive? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

Memorandum by the Fresh Produce Consortium (MARKETS 23)


  1.  The Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) is the UK's trade association representing the complete spectrum of the fresh produce industry: from growers, importers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors, packers, food service organisations and other allied organisations. Among our members are a number of wholesale market tenants' associations, as well as individual companies trading at markets.


  2.  FPC welcomes the Communities and Local Government Committee's inquiry into traditional retail markets:

    — which form an essential platform for our members to provide UK consumers with a wide range of affordable quality fresh fruit and vegetables and cut flowers; and

    — in addition, local farmers and specialist markets are helping to meet the consumers' demand for the availability of locally sourced fresh produce.


  3.  In July 2008 the Cabinet Office published "Food Matters—Towards a strategy for the 21st Century". This strategy highlighted the importance of traditional retail markets, in particular their role in providing local supplies of fresh produce, stating: "Street markets can be an important source of affordable, good-quality food including fresh fruit and vegetables. They can be significantly cheaper than supermarkets and so provide access to good quality fresh food to those on low incomes."

4.  The strategy also commented on the increasing popularity of a number of specialist markets: "The success of farmers' and specialist markets and large revitalised city markets provide models for great local engagement with fresh, affordable food and highlight an opportunity to modernise of develop new food markets."

  5.  The total quantity of fruit and vegetables marketed in the UK in 2006 was 8.1 million tonnes. Since 1996 the market volume has grown by 1.2 million tonnes, or 16.8%. The market still has the potential for further expansion in order to meet consumption targets of 5-a-day. If the entire UK population were to eat the recommended 5-a-day, actual consumption would be in the region of 8.8 million tonnes.

  6.  The Government has recognised that long-term food security, sustainable food production and consumption must be delivered in a global context. Around 60% of fruit and vegetables are imported into the UK, providing us with produce outside the UK season as well as varieties which simply cannot be grown in the UK. Whilst concerns have been raised regarding the issue of "air miles", research indicates that about 83% of greenhouse gases are created in the production phase of food, with transportation representing only 11% of the life cycle of greenhouse gases. Meat production is far more greenhouse gas intensive than the production of fresh produce. According to a US report on food miles and food choices "dietary shift can be a more effective means of lowering an average household's food-related climate footprint than `buying local'". The Fresh Produce Consortium is working with the Carbon Trust and others to look at how we can identify sources of emissions and reduce the carbon footprint of companies and their products.


  7.  The potential for local markets to contribute both within local communities and their economy is significant. Independent retail markets are a key customer group for wholesale market traders and an important element of the local economy.

8.  According to research carried out by the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) and the World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM) in 2008 there are 1,200 markets in the UK, with approximately 46,000 traders and a gross turnover of 1.38 billion Euros each year. Across the European Union there are 25,000 markets, with approximately 400,000 traders and a gross turnover of 35 billion Euros per annum.

  9.  In addition, retail markets can provide a vibrant social hub, delivering local access to a wide range of fresh produce which cater for the diverse needs of the local community, as well as providing social interaction particularly for older people and young mothers.

  10.  The industry's campaign Eat In Colour is ideally placed to provide consumers of all ages with advice on how to enjoy eating healthily and to reach the recommended 5-a-day target. Last year we published the findings of a TNS consumption survey which indicates that on average consumers are eating 2.5 servings of fruit and vegetable a day. Without a dramatic change in eating habits it could take another 25 years for consumers to meet the recommended 5-a-day.

  11.  Traditional retail markets can play a vital role in helping to encourage consumers of all ages to increase their consumption of healthy fresh produce, in particular women and families with lower incomes, both key target groups for the 5-a-day campaign. Our survey found that overall women set the pace for healthy eating, with 2.7 servings a day compared to men with 2.4 servings a day. Mothers take care of young children age 0-5, encouraging them to eat 2.5 servings, but there is a decline in consumption as children get older.

  12.  There seems to be an economic link to the ability of consumers to eat the recommended amounts of fruit and veg. A greater proportion of less well off consumers eat unhealthily. Nearly two thirds of people classed as less well off eat two or less servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Around 1.9 million less well off people are eating less than one serving of fruit and vegetables a day. Worryingly their consumption appeared to increase back in 2006, but seems to be decreasing again to levels recorded in 2005.

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Prepared 23 July 2009