The NFU Watercress Association has said these new producers, many of which are from European countries such as Spain, are exploiting the boom as watercress is historically grown in pure, mineral-rich, flowing water.
It fears this will damage the industry, which prides itself on tradition and has applied to the EU for Traditional Speciality Guaranteed protected status of its growing methods.
The EU Protected Food Name Scheme was established to help protect farming communities and to provide a guarantee of food provenance. It is loosely modelled on the French AOC (Appellation d'Origine Controle).
Charles Barter, chairman of the NFU Watercress Association and head of The Watercress Company, told Grower: "The watercress industry has promoted itself very carefully — the public perception of watercress is that it's grown in pure water. I'm not saying that the other products are inferior — they are just not watercress. They are cress."
He added that importers are selling their product as watercress because they are taking advantage of the fact that watercress is now known to be a health food with antioxidant properties.
For more in this story, see next week's Grower.
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