TESCO is dedicated to sourcing fresh produce from Northern Ireland where it can. But it will not supply inferior produce.
"We know what consumers want and we will source that locally where we can, with point-of-sale labelling to show our commitment," explained Tescos Andy Willmott.
"We dont want to import, but we will if we cant get the produce quality we need. This merely reflects consumer demand," he said. Since acquiring the Stewarts/Crazy Prices supermarket chain last year fresh produce sales have rocketed 45%, he claimed.
Investing £1m in a new chill store and acquiring an ambient store in Antrim proves the supermarkets desire to source locally, he said.
Staff to advise on production and securing government funds to develop the supply base were further evidence, he added.
"We now need to develop production for crops that arent available here like aubergines, and expand production of others, like tomatoes and potatoes. We need 5ha of glass to get round the 70% undersupply of tomatoes and investment in cold stores – theres a real shortage for potatoes."