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SUSTAINABLITY Buying Irish is good for you

Outdoor Living
Check your label to see where your food was produced.
Check your label to see where your food was produced.

Where in the world?

Shoppers should be thinking about exactly where their food comes from

Food matters
Chris Brown

It has always seemed abundantly clear to me that Ireland should grow more food than it does. There is plenty of space to do so, and to meet more of our own food needs would be a helpful step in reducing the mounting debt the country is falling under.
It’s not that food grown in other countries isn’t as good – obviously, fantastic edibles are produced around the world; and besides, bananas and oranges need a different climate to ours – but when it comes to carrots, apples, lettuce and so on, stuff that really suits our conditions, we should always aim to grow, and buy, our own.
The fact that in the shops, onions, say, have a song and dance made about them if they’re grown in Ireland, almost making them a novelty item, speaks for itself as most onions come from Holland, France and Spain. We can, and should, do better than this; foods of the Alliaceae family – leeks, scallions, garlic, onions, shallots – really basic food items that grow very easily here, should not need to be sourced from other countries. The benefits of reducing our imports don’t take much working out!
Ireland’s current track record in its dealings in the euro is not the ‘Mae West’, according to the nation’s balance sheet, and a manageable strategy to encourage food production needs to be formulated as a matter of some urgency. We must ask, and address, the question: “Why are we so far behind our European neighbours in agricultural production?”
Recently an RTÉ reporter asked shoppers outside a Dublin supermarket if they consciously tried to buy Irish food as a priority, and the response was telling. Nearly all answered by saying they would prefer to buy Irish but felt forced into buying imports because they cost less (one man said bluntly ‘I just buy the cheapest’), and off they all went to load their punnets of Brazilian apples into the boot of their cars. From this it can be deduced that to level up the prices would be a huge help to Ireland’s agricultural harvest.
The price of Irish grown food will not come down, nor should it, but the price of imports will steadily increase, and as this happens, many will wonder what happened to the orchards and field-grown vegetables on home turf.
The answer will be that many Irish enterprises have failed due to lack of support, a lack of customers insisting on foods grown in Ireland.
Much of the solution to improving local production lies in the hands of shoppers themselves. (If we wait for sensible solutions to be instigated by politicians and civil servants, it will be a long wait and we may well go hungry.) Shoppers need to support Irish producers by giving priority to essentials produced at home.

What’s on the label?
Fortunately an increasing number of those controlling the household purse do seem to realise the importance of buying locally produced foods. However, they are increasingly being duped by labelling that misleads them.
Take my neighbour, a conscientious shopper trying her best to buy Irish, who returning from the supermarket with two packets of vegetables thinking that both were grown on home soil.
Both had the tri-colour emblazoned on them, were ‘specially’ packed on some industrial estate near Dublin, but on close inspection of the small print, one was grown in Holland, the other in the UK. There is no doubt that when selecting these items she thought they were Irish grown; and was very disappointed to find that they weren’t. The packaging had duped her into the purchase!
This should not be happening. Food today comes with lots of unnecessary information on the packaging. Come on, when did the fact that each 100gm serving of whatever contains nought point something of magnesium or sodium etc mean anything to anyone – it’s just more of the usual blather which masks the important facts.
The country of origin is the main detail and should be clearly and boldly marked on the front of the pack: It should read GROWN IN IRELAND!
Please buy Irish.

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Chris Brown is a food producer in Louisburgh. He has a particular interest in food miles and buying local.