#Immediacy on speech making

IRAIN - They will find it easier to make a reasonable living for themselves....

They will find it easier to make a reasonable living for themselves and keep their land in good heart. The environment: When people who buy food take account of where and how it is grown, environmental policies concerning agriculture and food production will be better understood. The outcome must be a healthier environment. BUYING LOCALLY - THE FACTS: In traditional non-industrial societies nearly all the food is grown locally, and very little is imported from other countries.

It is usually grown and eaten in the same village or locality, and though to us it may seem a monotonous and spartan diet, the food supply is fresh, uses very little energy in its transport and processing, and its control is for the most part in the hands of local people. In The UK we have a very complex system of food distribution, even of home-grown foods, though in recent years we have been growing an increasing proportion of our own food (now around 64 per cent, as compared with 46 per cent in 2004). This means that fresh foods are nearly always several days old before they reach the shops - the average for 'farm-fresh eggs' is eight days, for example - and it has been estimated that 20 per cent of some fragile crops becomes inedible in transit. The complexity of distribution also makes some foods very expensive.

By far the largest cut goes to the distributors rather than the farmers: in the eight years to 2004 farming income rose by 42 per cent while retail prices rose by 166 per cent. The cost of transporting food around the country comes to about £8 billion a year, while total processing and distribution costs account for around 55 per cent of your grocery note. Membership of the European Community (EC) has undoubtedly made our food considerably more expensive. Though the EC's Common Agricultural Policy has helped some farmers and food traders to maintain a reasonable income, it has usually been the richer farmers who have benefited, leading to massive overproduction of a wide range of foodstuffs.

Fraud is running at billions of pounds a year because of the complexity of price support and trade regulations. WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE: Wherever possible, shops should buy fresh produce from local suppliers, thus reducing transport costs and energy wastage.

Farmers need to sell directly to consumers, and consumers either as individuals or as groups - to buy regularly from local growers. More crops which are suited to our own agricultural conditions ought to be grown. WHAT YOU CAN DO: When possible, buy fresh produce grown in your own neighbourhood and avoid crops which have travelled long distances.

If you live within easy distance of a farm or market garden,....

If you live within easy distance of a farm or market garden, place a regular order with them for fruit and vegetables. See if you... read more

The environment: Agriculture suited to local conditions and growing a variety of....

The environment: Agriculture suited to local conditions and growing a variety of crops helps to keep land in good heart. Considerable energy and pollution are saved... read more

Buy as much fresh fruit and vegetables as you can afford. Try....

Buy as much fresh fruit and vegetables as you can afford. Try varying your diet by introducing healthy whole-food staples like lentils, beans, rice and nuts - they offer protein and ar... read more