Food sent on road odyssey

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The Independent Online
ROS WYNNE-JONES

The distance travelled by foods in heavy lorries around Britain has increased by just over half in the last 15 years, according to the campaign group Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Environment Alliance.

While industry chiefs argue that Britain needs better and more roads to maximise the efficiency of freight transport, SAFE want to see supermarket chains sourcing their products locally to cut down the number of "food miles" travelled by heavy goods vehicles. The umbrella group's research highlights the following cases:

Asparagus: At a supermarket in the Vale of Evesham, Hereford and Worcester, Britain's main asparagus-growing region, asparagus had been imported 2,000 miles from Spain at the height of the season.

Apples: The United Kingdom is the second largest importer in apples in the world, even though apples are available in the country most of the year round. Apples are imported 14,000 miles from New Zealand, 3,300 miles from the United States and 5,200 miles from South Africa. The UK is only 35 per cent self-sufficient in apples, while in France 90 per cent of apples sold are French

KitKat: A British supermarket chain was found to buy its KitKat bars in France and road freight them to the UK, while a French supermarket chain bought Mars Bars from Slough, Berkshire, although they were also produced in France. Transport costs were lower than the difference in price of the products between the two countries.

Milk: Fresh milk from a dairy near the south coast of England was found being sold in the north of Scotland.

Tomatoes: A Lancaster firm collected tomatoes from Pilling, Lancashire, and transported them to Lancaster. They were then road-freighted to Blackpool for distribution to Dewhurst the butchers at their Yorkshire depot. From there they went by road to all Dewhurst shops, including Lancaster.

Fruit and salads: A company operating a distributing centre in Spalding, Lincolnshire, was importing bananas through South-ampton, which were then sent to Bolton, Lancashire, where they were ripened. From there they were taken to Bridgwater, Somerset, to go to retail distribution centres and wholesalers throughout England and Wales.

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