IT’S encouraging to hear Scotland’s top chef endorse so heartily the revival of the Scottish tomato industry. After tasting the new brand of Hawick-grown tomatoes last week, he praised them for their flavour as well as their deep-red appearance. In fact, the chef-patron of the double Michelin-starred restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles Hotel even went so far as to declare the Scotty Brand on-the-vine Annamay cocktail and Sweetelle baby plums “better than anything I’ve tasted and as good as, if not better than, anything we get from abroad”.

That they are commercially grown on a dairy farm using techniques never tried in Scotland before – a combination of biomass, biogas and special refractive glass costing £2m for a greenhouse the size of two and a half football pitches – makes them, in the words of the specialist grower, “the greenest red tomatoes you’ll find”.

So far, so good. There is a long tradition of tomato growing in Scotland, especially in the Clyde Valley during the 1950s and 60s, but a combination of cheap imports from the Netherlands and the rest of the UK, plus a perceived lack of support from supermarkets to promote local, dealt a blow from which it has never really recovered until now.

A bold attempt to revive the Clyde Valley brand ended in failure two years ago, after just two years of trading.

Chef endorsement is invaluable for a new product. Name-checking it on menus it can encourage consumer demand.

But retail is another matter altogether. If it’s true that consumers want local, seasonal produce – and research consistently indicates that they do – then supermarkets will source it.

But that’s not the end of the matter. Shoppers need to be aware that it is available, and where to find it. Unless a premium price is paid by the supplier for advantageous placing, there is no guarantee that Scottish tomatoes, for example,

will be strategically sited on the shelf to be made more – or even equally –visible to shoppers than a rival from the Isle of Wight or Holland.

Price is another issue. Scottish tomatoes are at the higher end of the price scale due in part to the labour costs of producing and hand-picking them; economy of scale also plays a part. But my local supermarket has already slashed the price of its upmarket own-label tomatoes to below that of the new boys on the block from Scotland. It’s offering two packs of its on-the-vine cocktail tomatoes for £4 (down from £2.50 for one), and others at £2 a pack (with a bright red sticker advertising the fact), where Scottish ones are £2.40 for the same weight; the own-brands are displayed at eye-level, where the Scottish ones are on the top shelf.

Hardly a level playing field.

In the hard-nosed world of commerce where the much-cited “market forces” can be so manipulated, it’s naïve to assume that a powerful retailer would ever willingly offer a helping hand to a new product unless someone pays over the odds for the privilege.

So, as ever, it’s down to the consumer. Do we care enough to pay the true price of buying local?