Welcome to Riverford

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Frequently Asked Questions

Here you’ll find the answers to the questions we’re often asked. If you can't find the answer here, or if you'd find it easier to talk to someone, please give us a ring (numbers below). We always like to hear from you (or even to see you if you are ever near the farm).

new website help

box contents

where can I see box contents all on one page?

We've put a link on the Boxes page, in the top block, to “this week’s boxes”. Here you will see all the box contents for the week on one page.


how do I amend an order I have already placed?

Once you have logged in you will be able to “view your orders”. Here you will see your future orders and can link to your regular order. To add or remove a number of items already in your order use the + / - buttons. To add more to your order click on “add to order” and you will go to Shop where you can add more to your order while keeping your basket in view.

adding to your basket

When you find an item you want to add to your basket click on “add to order”. You will then see the item in your basket. Continue to shop and only click on “update order” once you’ve completed your shop.

how do I know I’ve submitted an order?

Having either added to your order in shop and clicked on “update order” or adjusted your order in “view my orders” and clicked on “confirm changes” you will see a message above your order “order confirmed”

why am I getting more than one confirmation email when I order?

When “update order” is clicked this confirms your order to us. We then send an email to you to confirm changes to your order. There is no need to click on “update order” each time you add an item to your basket, simply carry on adding and only click on “update order” when you have finished adding to your basket.


where are the recipes?

Recipes are in our Cook section. Once there you will find categories of recipe and you can search by ingredient. If you have any ideas you'd like to share you can send us your recipes from this section too.

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Washing the fruit & veg

wash before eating

Should I wash my Riverford veg?

We aim to give you great tasting, ethically produced food without impacting on the environment.

We avoid mechanical washing our vegetables as it can damage them, reducing shelf life, nutritional content and flavour. Washing is best done as close to eating as possible, so we leave this job to you.

Our philosophy on packaging is also simple - use as little as possible without compromising quality. We are a vegbox scheme after all and we’d like to use nothing but the box. The fruit and salad you eat raw might sit next to some muddy veg fresh from our fields so you should wash all our produce before eating it

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Making your account work for you, changing orders

ordering, finding out what's in the box and changing your order

Do I have to order every week?

No, you can have a delivery as often as suits you (we’ll need two working days notice). Lots of customers find that alternating between two boxes suits them, eg. a large box with a fruit box one week and a fruit and veg box the next. You can always add an extra bag of whatever you eat a lot of (potatoes, onions, apples etc.)

How can I find out what is in the boxes?

We post box contents on the website every Friday (Thursday for Upper Norton Farm customers) and email you each week, so you can check whether you would like to stay with the same box, change to another one, or add any extras. We try very hard to stick to the contents, but the unpredictable weather and nature mean we do occasionally have to change at the last minute

What size box is best for me?

We suggest the boxes are suitable for the number of people shown below, based on a week’s use. If you are vegetarian we recommend going up a box size.

1-2 people
mini vegbox
7 (occasionally 8) veg items

mini fruit & veg box (ideal if you eat out a lot)
Typically 5 veg + 2 fruit items

2-3 people
small vegbox
Typically 8 veg items

seasons vegbox (potato-free)
8 veg items

favourites vegbox
Typically 8 items

3-4 people
medium vegbox
Typically 10 items

fruit & veg box
Typically 7 veg + 3 fruit items

fruit box
Typically 5 fruit items

4+ people
large vegbox
Typically 12 items

meat + veg boxes
from £26.45

meat boxes
from £19.95


How often can I change my order?

As often as you like. We really want you to get the box that suits you each week. Customers generally find it better to set up a regular order (which can alternate between boxes) and then pause their order when they are away or going out a lot. This is a great help to us in planning the crops, but we much prefer you to swap between boxes and miss the occasional delivery than build up an onion mountain or have cabbages taking over in the fridge.

What is the latest I can change my order?

You can change your order online up to 10pm two days before your delivery. To change your order by phoning or emailing your vegman or lady we need two working days notice before delivery:

  • Monday delivery phone by Friday 5pm, online by Saturday 10pm
  • Tuesday delivery phone by Friday 5pm, online by Sunday 10pm
  • Wednesday delivery phone by Monday 5pm, online by Monday 10pm
  • Thursday delivery phone by Tuesday 5pm, online by Tuesday 10pm
  • Friday delivery phone by Wednesday 5pm, online by Wednesday 10pm
  • Saturday deliveryphone by Thursday 5pm, online by Thursday 10pm

Does my order have to include a box?

You’ll get better value with one of our veg, fruit & veg or meat boxes but if you’d prefer to choose from our ‘extras’ only there is a minimum order of £12.50 (without meat) or, if you want to make up your own meat box the minimum is £25. Though you may not always need to order a box, our boxes are usually the best value as they are full of seasonal produce, most of which we grow on our farms.

How do I plan for holidays?

If you are going on holiday you can pause your order online by 8pm two working days before your delivery day or by phone or email to your vegman or lady by 5pm two working days before delivery.

If you are pausing your order online, sign in to your account then choose <pause your orders>. You can stop all deliveries while you are away using the date picker.

Can I choose my own box contents? If I don’t like something can I swap it for something else?

Our boxes have fixed contents for a few reasons. We can get our produce to you as quickly as possible, giving you fresher veg. We can keep our prices low, so as many people as possible can afford organic veg and we can also minimise waste, as we can use everything we grow. Most importantly, it means we can keep our commitment to the farmers in our co-op who help us make the boxes varied and interesting.

Our core boxes usually contain potatoes, carrots and onions, but we also offer boxes without these staples. Contents change every week and you can swap between boxes to suit you and add any extra items you like.

Can I order a box as a gift for someone else?

Yes – and plenty more besides. The easiest way to order any of our food as a gift is to call Customer Services on 0845 600 2311 / 01803 762059. We will be able to tell you the day of delivery and place your order.

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Payment methods

there are no delivery charges

Is there a delivery charge?

No, delivery is free.

Is there a minimum order value? Do I have to order a box?

You’ll get better value with one of our veg, fruit & veg or meat boxes but if you’d prefer to choose from our ‘extras’ only there is a minimum order of £12.50 (without meat) or, if you want to make up your own meat box the minimum is £25. Though you may not always need to order a box, our boxes are usually the best value as they are full of seasonal produce, most of which we grow on our farms.

How do I pay?

You can pay by logging into your account, clicking on ‘my account’ and then ‘make a payment’. We accept Visa, Visa Delta, Visa Electron, MasterCard, Maestro (one-off payments only) and Solo. You can choose to make a one off payment or sign up to a regular payment agreement (FuturePay). This will debit your card each time you have a delivery and saves you needing to remember to pay every week. You can also make a card payment by phoning your local vegman/lady or Customer Services.

If your card has expired or there is a problem taking payment, contact your local vegman/lady, Customer Services or visit the WorldPay Shopper Management website http://www.worldpay.com/shopper/. You’ll have received your login details for the WorldPay site via email when your FuturePay agreement was first created..

For security reasons, please don’t email your credit card details to us.

How can I look at my statement history?

Log in and select ‘my account’. You’ll also receive a payment confirmation each time we deliver to you.

Card payment charge

There is a small charge for card payments which depends on the type of card you hold. The card charge calculator will give you an idea of how much it is likely to be.

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The ethical and environmental lowdown

it's at the core of our business

How would you summarise Riverford’s ethical stance?

To give a fair deal to farmers, customers, staff and the environment. This means not going for easy answers (which are nearly always the ones that would be better from a marketing point of view), but looking for an informed and balanced solution – and aiming to take growers, staff and customers with us.

What is Riverford doing about its carbon footprint?

Thinking about it constantly, is the short answer, and taking action in all sorts of unglamorous but important ways. We’ve done this since we started packing boxes in 1986, but our thinking has become a lot more structured recently, after we funded a study with Exeter University. We have set up a website where you can find the long answer about everything from hothouse tomatoes to packaging and transport.

What can customers do to help?

You can help a lot by keeping boxes dry and leaving them out for your vegman/lady to reuse. We aim to get ten deliveries out of each one. Please also leave us out any plastic bag for recycling. You could also introduce friends and neighbours to Riverford – the amount of van rounds is the thing that will have most impact on our carbon footprint.

What is your packaging policy?

We have always minimised packaging, designing re-usable boxes, and only using bags and punnets where necessary to maintain moisture (eg. greens) or protect the product. Our punnets and paper bags are compostable but we’re now asking you to send them back in your returnable boxes, so we can recycle them. For more on this see our environment website.

Why do you want the vegboxes back?

Our boxes are reused on average four times, are made from 95% recycled materials and are recycled at the end of their lives but, surprisingly, still account for 10% of our carbon footprint.

We really need as many boxes back as possible, even if they are damaged. This is the biggest thing you can do to reduce the environmental impact of your veg delivery. When they develop a tear, instead of being condemned to recycling, they go to the field hospital where we apply gaffer tape and send them back into action.

To return your old box fold it down (the bottom goes down, not up) and leave it out for us.

How much of Riverford’s produce is homegrown?

We’ve been growing seasonal organic veg for over 25 years now – it’s at the heart of who we are. Vegboxes are about bringing the best of our fields into your home and encouraging people to rediscover a love for British produce. We don’t want to be so inflexible that we drive people back to the supermarkets, though (there is a demand for tomatoes all year round, for example), so there are times when we need to look for alternatives.

In planning our vegboxes, we prioritise UK grown produce. We also look for the ‘right plant, right place’ (years of experience has taught us, for example, that onions grow best in the drier east of the country at Riverford on Sacrewell Farm than at our farm in drizzly Devon). As the next option to fill the boxes, we look to our growers in Europe, and then further afield for things like bananas and more exotic crops when we need to provide more variety. We work with our growers over the long term and never airfreight any produce.

  • The facts:
  • In 2012, at the peak of summer, 92% of the veg was Riverford-/homegrown (84% UK; 8% Vendée farm).
  • Taking an average across 2012, 77% of the veg was Riverford-/homegrown (71% UK; 6% Vendée farm). This was in a very poor farming year, so normally the figure would be even higher.
  • UK grown isn’t always best! For example, the environmental cost of trucking tomatoes over from Southern Europe is much lower than growing them under heated glass in the UK.
  • We have a Riverford farm in France so we can grow more crops to plug the ‘hungry gap’ of April/May in the UK, when very little UK veg is ready. The farm is in the Vendée region of France, where the light levels and climate mean that crops are ready about 6 weeks sooner compared with the UK. We can bring them over at very little environmental cost.
  • We’ll keep looking for ways to make our range as homegrown as possible, including experimenting with new varieties and giving customers plenty of recipes that celebrate UK fruit and veg.

How does Riverford compare (environmentally) with going to the supermarket?

It is very difficult to give a categorical answer but generally, unless you walk to your supermarket and buy only UK grown, unpackaged produce, your shopping trip usually won’t have a lower environmental impact than having a Riverford box delivered. Most of our customers tell us that shopping with us has helped them reduce their other shopping trips. If we can reduce shopping trips by car by one a month we will have had a significant impact. For more on this see our environment website.

Is paper always better for the environment than plastic?

We’d love to say yes, because we’ve spent years developing our own paper and cardboard boxes, punnets and bags. But we’ve now found that, from the perspective of energy and greenhouse gas emissions, plastic is generally better, often by a factor of two or three. The conclusion is that all disposable packaging is bad. Recycling helps, but only reduces the environmental impact by an average of about half, so it does not make packaging OK. To see how we use packaging see our environment website.

Do you use bio-fuels?

No. With the exception of some used cooking oil (which is only available in very limited volumes), bio-fuels can take as much energy to grow and process as they produce. Some work has shown biodiesel to result in higher levels of exhaust particulates which are particularly damaging to the health of plants and animals, including people. Growing arable crops for fuel competes with food production, often of staple crops relied upon by third world countries. For more on this see our environment website.

Should we all be vegetarians?

There is little doubt that in the developed world we eat more animal products than is good for our health and the environment. Pigs, poultry and intensively produced (grain fed) cows all compete with the world’s poor for grain produced on fertile arable land. In turn, this increases the pressure for deforestation and intensification of production on existing land. For more on this see our environment website.

There is no simple answer to this question. There seem to be a lot of reasons for eating fewer animal products, making sure that we use all the animal (offal and all) and treating them with the respect that they deserve, both when alive and in the kitchen, rather than just wanting them to be cheap.

Is organic agriculture better for the environment?

In almost all cases the answer is yes. Organic farming:

  • Promotes biodiversity within fields, in the hedgerows and, most importantly, in the soil
  • Uses less energy per kg of food produced. Organic famers don’t use synthetic nitrogen fertiliser that uses huge amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture
  • Avoids pollution from pesticides and fertilisers
  • Carbon sequestration removes CO2 from the atmosphere and accumulates it as increased levels of organic matter in the soil
  • No use of GM

The argument often used against organic farming is that it uses more land to produce the same amount of food and therefore increases pressure to clear forest for agriculture. In simplistic terms this is true in developed countries with highly mechanised monoculture cropping systems. It’s not true of developing countries where complex, integrated organic farming systems using local knowledge and inputs can be many times more productive than monocultures dependent on imported chemical inputs. Within the developed world simple calculations take no account of energy used to make nitrogen. If this energy had to be produced sustainably, for instance from biofuels, organic farming would often be more productive.

Why have you gone back to polythene plastic bags?

We have been working with Exeter University to find the least worst options for our packaging with surprising results: compostable/biodegradable, degradable and starch-based plastics create more environmental problems than they solve.  So we’ve abandoned our degradable bags and gone back to plain old oil-based polythene that is recyclable. Leave them out for us in your returnable box and we'll recycle them.


For more on the facts behind this decision see http://www.riverfordenvironment.co.uk/Update.aspx.

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How deliveries are organised and why

we deliver on rounds

What time do you deliver? Do I need to be at home?

We deliver between 6am and 8pm on your delivery day.

You don’t need to be at home. In fact, more than 70% of customers are out when we deliver. Deliveries are made by your local vegman/lady (not a courier), who works on a ‘round’ basis on a set day to maximise efficiency and reduce food miles. However, if you have a regular order you’ll notice that delivery is often at a similar time each week – traffic and weather permitting!

Where will you leave my box if I’m not in?

Let your local vegman/lady know where you would like them to leave your box. We are used to all sorts of requests. This could be anything from leaving your box with a neighbour, in a shed or garage, to tucking it under a hedge, behind a dustbin or under upturned recycling boxes. We’ll also deliver to your work place if this is more convenient. If you’re an existing customer please contact your local vegman/lady, or if you are a new customer enter your work address details when you place your order for the first time.

We have also designed an Eco Cool Food Safe, a storage unit that works as both insulation and as a mini-garden, keeping your vegbox fresher for longer on the doorstep. They can be planted and are designed to live on the doorstep or in the garden – a lot more pleasing to the eye and the environment than Hippo boxes.

Why don’t you deliver to all areas?

Although we are growing, we don’t cover the whole country. We have regional farms around the country to grow and deliver as locally as possible. If we don’t deliver in your area yet, please fill in the registration form and we will let you know when we start deliveries in your area. Some customers who live just outside our delivery areas have boxes delivered to their work address or to friends or family.

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What is distinctive about Riverford?

we're a little different and here's why

How did Riverford start?

Riverford was one of the pioneering organic vegetable box schemes, founded nearly 25 years ago by Guy Watson, who still owns and runs it. Riverford, the Watson family farm in Devon, is at the heart of Guy’s vegbox scheme, and various other Watson family enterprises: a dairy herd and award-winning dairy which produces our milk, cream, and yoghurt; a farm shop, kitchen and bakery; the meat box business and the Field Kitchen restaurant. The farm has a 25 year history of producing high quality fresh seasonal food and building the connection between consumer and grower (Riverford was the first farm in the country to open to the public back in the 1970s).

How does Riverford compare with other box schemes?

We are one of the larger box schemes, which enables us to offer varied box contents, flexibility, good value and service. We grow the vegetables ourselves, giving our customers a real connection with the farm, which you are welcome to come and visit. All deliveries are by our local vegmen/ladies, not couriers. As well as our original farm in Devon, we have regional farms in Cambridgeshire, Yorkshire and Hampshire, so that vegetables can be grown and distributed more locally. There are a few outstanding local box schemes that grow a good range and distribute locally and should be supported. For a bigger box scheme, we believe ours is a really good model.

How does Riverford compare with supermarkets?

Our produce is fresher than almost all supermarket veg; it comes straight from us to you, not via packers and distribution centres

  • We can choose the varieties we grow for flavour not cosmetic perfection or handling properties
  • We can tell you exactly where it comes from and you can come and see it growing
  • We give a consistently fair deal to growers and work with them over the long term
  • We have looked after the environment since day one – by the way we grow, by minimising waste, minimising and recycling packaging, and paying close attention to every aspect of our carbon footprint 
  • Delivery is free

How local is Riverford?

As Riverford has got bigger and more popular, it is also getting smaller and more local. Rather than grow any bigger from our Devon base, we have joined up with farmers in other parts of the country so that the vegetables can be grown close to where they are eaten. We have farms in Cambridgeshire serving the east of England, Yorkshire for the North and one in Hampshire for the South-Central region. If you are lucky enough to have a local farm shop that actually grows its own veg (a rarity) or a local box scheme that is both organic and grows locally, then you may get your vegetables more locally. Otherwise they are very unlikely to have travelled less distance or be fresher than ours.

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What we sell and where it comes from

mostly from our farm & grower group

What are organic veg boxes?

Organic veg boxes are at the heart of what we do. Each week we put together the best of what’s in season and pack it into boxes for you, so you get a varied, fresh, seasonal diet delivered to your door. Each week you can choose from a range of boxes to suit your household. It can take a few weeks to get used to life with a box, but customers generally find they cook more, eat more healthily and feel more of a connection with where their food comes from.

Is everything you sell organic?

Everything we offer is certified organic. There is one small exception: in-conversion produce that we very occasionally get from farmers who are in the process of converting to organic (rather than go abroad). In-conversion produce is only available on our extras list and will always be clearly labelled. Our imported produce is certified by IFOAM (The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) who make sure the produce is grown in active soil and meets similar standards to those set out by the Soil Association.

What does organic mean?

Organic is a term defined by law. All our vegetables are grown under Soil Association certification, meaning that they are grown to exacting standards and stringently inspected. The letter of organic law means avoiding pesticides and chemicals, but we see organic as going beyond this and being about working with nature rather than against it, ensuring the way we grow and operate is sustainable in every way.

How wide is your range? What do you sell beyond veg boxes?

We are great believers in sticking to our onions and doing what we do well – growing great-tasting fruit and veg. However if we are trying to save trips to the supermarket and get the most out of our delivery vans, it makes sense to deliver more per trip. We offer a whole range of fruit and veg to top up your box and you can also get meat (often reared on the same farm where the veg is grown), milk, cream and yoghurt from the Riverford dairy, organic wine, beer, spirits, cheese and quite a lot more. All organic, much of it from the Riverford Farm Shop and mostly from local suppliers.

What about your eggs?

All our eggs are Soil Association accredited. We took the decision some years ago that the welfare standards of some other organic certification were not acceptable (eg. flock sizes were too large and the practice of de-beaking was still permitted). We are also trying to exceed some of the Soil Association standards by, for example, using producers that use much smaller flock sizes. Our producers’ hens are fed on an organic diet approved by both the Soil Association and the Vegetarian Society. Our producers do not use any fishmeal, only natural ingredients. It is important to give the birds a balanced diet, so the feed is varied depending on what natural ingredients are available or in season. They do not use any chemicals or artificial yolk colourants - everything is natural. From time to time a producer may feed their hens organic vitamins, the content of which is derived from organic fruit only. The Soil Association certifies this practice.

Are the products on your extras list suitable for everyone?

We appreciate that many of our customers have different dietary requirements, so we try to provide as much information as possible about our products. We aim to source wines that are suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. Any products that may include nuts, dairy or gluten are clearly labelled. If you need a bit more information about any of our products call Customer Services on 0845 600 2311 / 01803 762059 or email help@riverford.co.uk.

Where does your produce come from? Is it all homegrown?

Over the year around 90% of the vegetables are homegrown (80% if you include fruit – but obviously we can’t grow bananas and citrus fruit ourselves). The proportion of homegrown produce rises to near 100% in late summer and early autumn and dips to nearer 60% in late spring. Most is grown on our farms and by local grower groups. We import as little as possible (never by air freight) to keep the boxes interesting all year round and to cover the ‘hungry gap’ around May when our own fields offer little variety. You will see the country codes on our box contents page, these show where each item in the boxes is from. To find out what the codes stand for, click here.

What does ‘in conversion’ mean?

To become certified organic by the Soil Association, farmers have to take their land through a two year conversion process. During this period they cannot sell produce as organic, but can sell it as ‘in conversion’ which helps them through the process. We occasionally offer in conversion produce (apples are the most common example) – usually when the choice is between in conversion produce from a home grower or going abroad. It also means that we can help secure a market for smaller growers who have turned to organic farming while they wait for their produce to become certified. We have found that most customers strongly support this, but know that some feel strongly about everything being fully organic, so we only offer in conversion produce as an extra (clearly labelled), not in the boxes.

Do you air freight?

We do not air freight any produce and have never done so. Most of our imports come from growers in France and Spain. The carbon impact of imports – especially by sea – can be lower than growing in this country. If you would like to find out more visit our environment website www.riverfordenvironment.co.uk.




How is the meat packaged? 

We package the meat in a controlled atmosphere to give it a long shelf life.

What packaging can be recycled/given back to the vegman/lady?

You can send back all the packaging except the trays and bags the meat is packed into.

How long will it stay chilled?

You can keep the meat in the insulated boxes for 16 hours at optimum temperature but you should put the meat in the fridge or freezer as soon as you can. 

Is all of the meat organic?

Yes we only sell organic meat.

Can the meat be frozen? How long for?

All meat that hasn’t been frozen before can be stored in a freezer for up to 6 months.

How long is the shelf life?

This varies between products and how it has been packaged. All our products have a use by date and you should freeze product before then.

Where is the meat from?

All our meat is sourced directly from West Country farmers.

How do I cook various joints?

See our website.

What are the animals fed?

They graze outside through most of the year and in winter they eat organic grain.

Explain Portion sizes, how many people are the portions designed to feed? Is there a rational for the various box boxes?

This is always difficult as it depends on individual appetites. Generally a small box is for 2-3 people, Medium for 3-4 and large for 4-6

Who supplies the meat?

Local producers that we have long standing commitments with.

What is your standpoint on animal welfare?

Animal welfare is a top priority for the meatbox and we audit all of our suppliers and the abattoir. They are also regularly audited by the Meat Hygiene Service and the Soil Association. The UK has the highest standards of Animal Welfare in the world. So you can be assured that all animals are extremely well cared for.

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we like to hear about anything you're not happy about so we can fix it

What should I do if my box hasn’t arrived?

We very rarely miss a delivery, so don’t panic if it is a bit later than usual. If it is very late, please ring your local vegman/lady or Customer Services on 0845 600 2311 / 01803 762059. We will find out what has happened and try to put it right.

I think something is missing from my order...

Occasionally we have to make a change to your box contents because of the weather or yields. So first check that we haven’t substituted an item for something else. If something is missing, please let us know and we replace it free with your next delivery.

What should I do if there is a problem with any of the produce?

We work hard to bring you fresh, high quality produce. With fresh organic fruit and vegetables, the odd thing can inevitably go wrong. We try to catch any problems and grade out anything that is substandard or doesn’t have enough shelf life (the staff and the cows get to eat this). If you have a problem please don’t suffer in silence – let us know so we can put it right (by a credit or a free replacement), and investigate so it doesn’t happen again.

Where do I find my receipt and newsletter?

We usually put newsletters in the box, but if you’re out we usually post the receipt through your letter box to let you know your box has arrived. You can also read the newsletters and see your statement online.

What should I do if my account has been deactivated?

If you have not placed an order for a long time we may deactivate your account. You can have it reactivated by contacting your local vegman/lady or calling Customer Services on 0845 600 2311 / 01803 762059. 

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