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July 08, 2008

UK to import more African goods

More African goods - from chocolate to pineapples to spices in ready meals - could appear on UK supermarket shelves in future, said British International Development Minister Gareth Thomas as he opened for bids a new £2m scheme helping producers to trade their way out of poverty.

The scheme, which will be match funded by retailers, will team food producers from the developing world with major UK retailers to increase the flow of African food products to the UK in innovative ways that works for both parties.

On July 7, Gareth Thomas was to challenge the view that exported products from the developing world have a bigger environmental impact. He was to launch groundbreaking research into the carbon footprint of South African fruit and wine exports in Pretoria.

Thomas said, "British tastes have changed and are continuing to change. For example the demand for pineapple - which can't be grown in the UK on a commercial scale - has gone up by 24% in the last year. But producers in Africa can't always get the right supply chain in place or they're not quite adapted to the UK market.

UK retailers will team up with suppliers from Africa to bid for money from the Food Retail Industry Challenge Fund for projects to increase the increase the flow of African food products to the UK in a way that works for both parties, which will be match funded by the retailers.

An example of the type of project the Government hopes to see come forward would be an initiative to help African producers meet strict European certifications and supermarket standards. UK retailers will be expected to match fund projects put forward to help African farmers compete against Asian and Latin American suppliers and meet the exacting standards of UK supermarkets.

Seven out of ten Africans depend on agriculture and the natural environment for their livelihoods, including several million people who rely partly on sales of fruit, vegetables, cocoa, coffee, tea and other agricultural commodities to the UK. While nearly three-quarters of UK consumers say they want to reduce poverty through their shopping choices, they are also concerned about issues such as prices, food safety, environmental impacts and animal welfare.

The carbon footprint research launched on Monday will be co-funded by the Department for International Development and the industry itself. It is the first industry-wide measure to be developed in South Africa, which is one of the biggest exporters of wine in the world.

proving the incomes of the rural poor in Africa.


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