Sunday, 26 August 2007

Putting the food on our plates

This weekend there have been calls for a national watchdog to monitor the supermarkets and the food on our plates. Though I believe in free markets I do think the big 4 supermarkets could do with more watching. I've written about my bug-bear of food labelling before.

Wanting to know more about how farmers have coped with the terrible weather and how the food chain works I went to visit a friend who is a Lincolnshire farmer.

Taking valuable time away from his combine (and given the wheat price it is really valuable this year), Robert took me to see his main crop potatoes. Flooded out in one area, blight in another, but most of his crop looks like it may still be OK. He's been lucky, many other crops have not survived so well.

He said if I wanted to really understand the chain I needed to see the packager so off we went. Multi million pounds of cooler sheds, grading and packaging machinery, as well as fleets of HGVs all to prepare exactly the size, shape and blemish-free produce that we consumers expect to see in our plastic bags. The supermarkets do weald enormous power, they push it down to the packagers and processors, they push it down to the farmers. Farmers markets are good but only serve a tiny minority. I realised that as long as the majority of consumers continue to expect "perfect" looking produce on the supermarket shelves it comes with large scale centralised packaging operations - and the downside is all those lorries.

2 comments:

SimpleTory said...

Oi Vicky,
By all means have a go at supermarkets but stop lorry bashing.
Remember "No Lorries - No Food!"
The best way to put the big 4 supermarekts in their place is to encourage consumers to use their local shops.
Yes you say, but what if the small shops are no longer there or if your local 'Market Town' is pedestrianised and parking is a bitch?
The UK food industry must do more to help itself and stop whinging on and on about the supermarkets. What about a "Feed Ourselves" campaign - starting with pork perhaps. Why do we import so much Dutch and Danish Pork?
Anyway, do you get my drift?
ST

Vicky Ford said...

Simple tory
I'm a big supporter of local shops and farmers markets. If we want to keep them we must shop in them- but as you say they only serve a small part of the population. I think if you read the article again you will find it is not "lorry bashing" just stating that so long as the consumer demands that the supermarket serves perfect produce the food must travel... I absolutely support plans to make sure that only food properly produced in the UK can be labelled and sold as such.

I want a government to make sensible long term transport plans to stop everything being clogged up on our overcrowded roads.