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Tuesday, 21 April, 1998, 03:34 GMT 04:34 UK
British tomatoes fight back
Tomatoes are Britain's second most valuable fruit and vegetable
British tomato growers are launching a campaign to encourage shoppers to buy more home-grown produce.

They are fighting the flood of foreign imports thanks to a 5m investment programme to boost the flavour of home-grown fruits.

Around a dozen new varieties of tomato have arrived on the market and growers say much has been done to improve the texture, appearance and flavour of the popular fruits.

The association is holding a tasting session for new varieties of tomato in London, along with a celebrity fund-raising event involving the DJ Chris Tarrant and TV chef Ainsley Harriott to promote UK tomatoes.

Growers fear the strong pound could encourage retailers to look abroad for cheaper imports.

Top of the crops

Last year, 190,000 tonnes of tomatoes were imported from Spain and 100,000 from France, Holland and Italy.

The amount of tomatoes grown in Britain last year was 100,000 tonnes, worth around 82 million, making it the second most valuable UK fruit and vegetable crop behind carrots.

As well as producing new varieties, changes to growing methods have included leaving tomatoes to ripen on the vine for longer and cutting back on the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

The Tomato Growers Association said Britain now led the world in using natural predators to control pests rather than chemicals.

"We can confidently say that the range of British Tomatoes available is not only fresher at point of sale - a major plus point with customers - but also tastes better than most other tomatoes available, especially long shelf-life types which are being imported," said association chairman Alan Parker.

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