UK Trade and Development Minister Gareth Thomas has challenged the idea that exported products from the developing world have a bigger environmental cost.
Launching groundbreaking research into the carbon footprint of South African fruit and wine exports, Gareth Thomas said the scheme would enable the food industry and its consumers to understand more about the effect of goods we buy on climate change.
UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband joined Mr Thomas to meet wine and horticulture producers from South Africa as they launched the first industry wide research in the region to measure their carbon footprint. The scheme, funded jointly by the Department for International Development and the wine and fruit industry, will inform the development of further studies into the carbon footprint of food production.
Speaking from a market in Pretoria, South Africa, Mr Thomas said: "Food miles created are only one part of the equation – this study will look at the whole cycle of production which is the only fair way to go. Our research has shown nearly three quarters of the UK public want to use their weekly shop to reduce poverty in the developing world. But they don’t want to spend over the odds, especially with the global economic situation, and they’re - quite rightly – concerned about climate change."
He added: "This research will enable the industry here to understand the carbon "cost" they pose to the environment. This is crucial to maintaining South Africa’s competitive position in global fruit and wine export markets in order to continue to employ local people."
South Africa is reported to have already seen the early effects of climate change on its exports. This study will look at everything from citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges to apples and pears to wine, all of them major parts of South Africa’s food exports.
Table grape producer Ms Nthombi Msimang said dealing with issues relating to the environment had become crucial. "Our buyers are increasingly asking difficult questions about our carbon footprint, this project will allow us to address their concerns but more importantly it will give us the tools needed to secure the industry’s long-term sustainability and the jobs it provides," she said.