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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 December 2007, 18:23 GMT
Towns are branded 'food deserts'
A shortage of greengrocers supplying fruit and vegetables in Shropshire is leading to towns being described as "food deserts", according to research.

Dr Hilary Shaw, from Harper Adams University College, said the number of greengrocers has declined and shoppers are forced to choose supermarkets.

Stores operating on tight financial budgets mean shopkeepers are less likely to stock fresh fruit, he said.

As a result consumers are having to travel further to shop, he explained.

Dr Shaw, a lecturer in retail geography at the Shropshire university, began mapping areas he describes as "food deserts" in 2000 and said he is seeing a similar situation across England.

'Chicken and egg'

The maps detail different areas without food stores, others with only one general grocery store selling less than 10 different kinds of fruit and vegetables and towns selling more than 10 those containing supermarkets.

Around Shrewsbury, many towns are marked as having either no local grocery stores or just one. Numerous areas in and around Telford are mapped as having no food stores.

"There are a lot of parts of Shropshire - both rural and urban areas, such as Shrewsbury - where you have to travel up to a kilometre in urban areas and up to 4 to 5 km in the countryside to get access to fruit and vegetables," he said.

"With supply, small shops face higher costs, they do not have the economy of scale and they have to pay more in wholesale than supermarkets are paying in retail.

"With the demand factor, a lot of people don't know how to cook these things or haven't got the taste for them - it's a chicken and egg situation."

High rent is also a problem in town centres and greengrocers can be outbid by other retailers, he added.

"A lot of smaller towns are frightened to stock fresh fruit and veg because they are on a very marginal financial basis and they cannot afford much wastage," he said.



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