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The politics of food introduction

Updated Tuesday, 5th April 2016

The apple has become a contested political symbol of rural Britain versus the need to keep up with mass markets, and as the policing of pleasure increases, in an attempt to deal with social problems such as binge drinking, the new politics of food has a far reaching impact.

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Commentary
The humble apple, and cider, one of its most pleasurable products, tells us a lot about the new politics of food.

Geoff Andrews
I think in a very broad sense, the apple has become a contested political symbol of, perhaps, on one hand, rural Britain, and the other hand the need to keep up with the mass market for the city.

Commentary
Julian Temperley is one of a small number of artisan producers, making cider in the UK.

Julian Temperley
The cider world is divided between what we would call artisan and industrial cider makers. 

We grow 40 different varieties of apples and produce a cider with a provenance that it comes from this part of Somerset and produce a brandy, which we can claim the same for.

We sell cider out of barrels, we have done for all my life, certainly on this farm for the last 150 years. 

Slowly we are evolving a market to put cider back where it ought to be, which is on to the dinner table and in the best restaurants.

Geoff Andrews
We live in a climate now where, if you like, the policing of pleasures is becoming more apparent.

Cider brings a different aspect to this politics and pleasure debate. So on the one hand you've got the artisan ciders, produced in very sustainable ways, using very traditional methods; for the connoisseur of cider, if you like, and there's a lot of knowledge about cider and beer in Britain and this is also an aspect of pleasure.

On the other hand governments are concerned about people drinking cheap cider in city centres and getting drunk, so called binge drinking and there have been many policies that have been introduced to deal with that. 

Commentary
Policies aimed at industrial cider producers, such as a cider tax or EU legislation on excise duty, have threatened the livelihoods of smaller artisan producers.

Julian Temperley
Obviously cider’s taken a big hit, as far as sort of binge drinking is concerned, but that is the sort of alcohol based ciders or sold on alcohol content: the white ciders, the pear ciders. We are a slow production; we are an artisan production. It isn’t sort of importing Chinese concentrate, via Amsterdam, and calling it Somerset Cider.

Commentary
Producers like Julian have had to become effective political campaigners.

Julian Temperley
To be a simple cider maker it takes a surprising amount of time talking to people in government.

We have had to speak with our MP or MEP, to protect either our name or our orchards or our tax position, just so we can exist really.

Geoff Andrews
One of the interesting aspects of the new politics of food is the composition of the new food movements: farmers, producers, chefs, environmentalists, this is a very unique mix, it’s not the typical politicians, it’s not the typical political activists.

Julian Temperley
England has so little in the way of regional food, but what we’ve got, we’ve got to preserve. 

We’re not asking for subsidy. We don’t want interference in that way, but, we do want an awareness, so when something is quite wrong in government, that they will then take notice of what the particular producers want.

We are a farm that makes cider, we don’t want to be a bloody great factory.

 

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