Tomato growers praised for triumphing over importers

Former Tomato Growers Association (TGA) technical officer and founder member Gerry Hayman has paid tribute to the resilience of British tomato growers in the face of international competition.

"Growers have been fantastically successful in increasing yields since the 1990s, although rising fuel costs have now caught up," he said.

"The TGA has done a remarkable job in promoting them. People will pay more for a specialist product but you have to plug away at it. There are also opportunities for growers to find local markets once again."

With its shorter times to market, the British product can also be shown to be nutritionally superior to its Mediterranean equivalent, he added. "The levels of the antioxidant lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red colour, are up to six times higher."

Growers will continue to select what suits them best from the new varieties, he said, and future breeding will benefit from the completion of the tomato genome mapping project.

"You can now identify and incorporate whatever characteristic you want into your breeding without going down the GM route," he said.

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