[Rant on] The point he raises about farmers having to jump when Mr Supermarket Man tells them to was the key determinant in our switching to local shops that stock local produce. We still make a weekly trip to Shitways for recycled loo roll and other modern conveniences we have yet to wean ourselves from. And whenever we make a trip to M&S, Sainsbury’s or Tesco, it never fails to amaze us how uniform the produce look, blemish-free and standard sized. Supermarkets have perfected the art of stacking veggies on shelves and extending shelf lives of fruit, all on demand. But at whose expense? Certainly not the consumer’s (unless you’re after exotics like mangoes or fancy potatoes). Milk prices paid to farmers are ridiculously low compared to what we pay at the checkout, yet supermarkets view milk as a loss leader. A quick search on the Office of Fair Trading‘s website pulls up a 2004 OFT review of supermarkets’ code of practice, which highlights suppliers’ dissatisfaction with supermarkets, but no specific cases against the supermarkets. Farmers fear being dropped from supplier lists, and don’t have anyone to speak for them (I’m not referring to the wealthy estates who are quite able to take care of themselves). An excerpt from the review:
The CC said [snip] that ‘almost all the complainants were extremely reluctant to be named, or indeed to name the multiple or multiples that were the subject of their complaints.’ There appeared to the CC to be a climate of apprehension among many suppliers in their relationship with supermarkets.
From section 3.1 of the 2004 OFT review of the operation of the supermarkets code of practice.
Tightening up the code of practice is all very well, but if you can’t get farmers to speak up or even realise demands made on them are unfair, you can’t make a case against the supermarkets. Plus, they can get lawyered up. On top of that, if the supermarkets are pushed too hard, they’ll just pull out of using British suppliers altogether, move on to Africa with more disastrous consequences. You just can’t win.
As for farming magazines, they really are just written advertisements for the latest multivitamin protein-rich feed, shiny new tractors, or some other multinational corporation’s product. The same companies you see handing out freebies everywhere at the agricultural shows (if you’re giving things away, are you making too much money off the farmers?). And don’t get me started on bloody Belgian Blues or double-bummed sheep. Belgian Blue cows cannot deliver their calves naturally; they require caesareans1. [Rant off]
And now supermarkets turn their attention to newspapers and magazines? Ha! Good luck with that! At least journalists can articulate their discontent, and don’t need to be in print medium to do so.
For more on the invasion of the shopping trolley, have a look at Corporate Watch’s article: What’s wrong with supermarkets?.
Also in today’s news, the BBC reported the impending death of small farms: small farms may vanish. While trying not to be too sentimental about the loss of smallholdings, I can’t see how developers can be prevented from further encroaching on green belts if fields aren’t being farmed.
1The article compares cows to heifers as mothers, not the effects of caesareans on cows and calves.
Technorati tag: supermarkets.