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Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

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Published: 6 Mar 2020

Beth Penrose with carrots

Tasmania produces some of the highest quality fruit and vegetables in the country, but we have some of the lowest consumption of it.

Researchers from the University of Tasmania and Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) have looked at what stops Tasmanians from buying regionally grown fruit and vegetables and they believe that more consistent labelling could be one of the answers to increasing intake.

TIA’s Dr Beth Penrose said it is well known that people aren’t regularly eating regionally grown fresh fruit and vegetables.

“This has an impact not only from a nutrition and health perspective of consumers, but also an economic impact for local producers,” Dr Penrose said.

“We wanted to find out what prevents people from buying locally grown produce to help make changes to increase the intake.”

The study was the first of its kind to be done in Tasmania and gathered information on consumption behaviours and perceptions around purchasing and consuming regionally grown fresh fruit and vegetables.

Dr Penrose said that nearly all respondents (a staggering 97 percent) rated purchasing of regionally grown fruit and vegetables as important.

“This is a really key finding, because it means that people want to buy locally grown – they actively think about it. This desire to support Tassie growers is powerful and provides a big opportunity for producers,” Dr Penrose said.

The top three reasons people buy locally grown fruit and vegetables are produce freshness, to support local farmers and to support the local community.

On the flip side, the research found the main thing that holds people back is the perceived costs and limited seasonal availability of produce.

“The research indicates that more labelling of local products could have a really positive impact,” Dr Penrose said.

“A lot of local producers are supported when people shop at the supermarkets, but a lack of labelling means that consumers might not even realise when local produce is on offer.

“When you buy an apple from the supermarket, you’ll often see a sticker that tells you the variety and where it has come from, but when was the last time you saw labelling like this on tomatoes, fresh leaf salad, or carrots?

“Without this you don’t know if your carrot has been dug out of the ground 40km away in Forth or 1000km away in Mildura.”

Other effective strategies recommended by the research team included ‘buy local’ campaigns focused on how buying local benefits producers and communities and pricing produce according to quality.

“With price being a major barrier there is an opportunity for producers to sell lower quality produce, clearly labelled as b-grade, to potentially increase their profit,” Dr Penrose said.

“This could be a win-win for producers and consumers.

“If producers can help people access cheaper, locally produced products then they will theoretically eat more fresh produce, and in turn buy more local.”

The research team will further analyse the data to get more answers about the specific fruits and vegetables Tasmanians are buying, where they are buying them from and what proportion are grown here in Tasmania.

Read the full paper online at: https://mdpi.com/600108