Harvest time is a time for celebration

By Awel Medi Morris, Assistant Communications Manager at NFU Cymru

This time of year is particularly poignant for farmers since it’s harvest time but we are cognisant of the fact that farmers need to look beyond the farm gate and that the Welsh food sector is not just a growing opportunity, forgive the pun, for primary producers but for the Welsh economy as a whole.Back Welsh farming

Welsh food and farming are a cornerstone of the Welsh economy – delivering £5.8billion and the Welsh Government has set itself, and the agricultural industry, a target to see a growth in the food and farming sector of 30% in terms of turnover to £6.7billion and a 10% growth in Gross Value Added to £1.4billion, by 2020. Whilst it is encouraging to see this recognition given to the food and drink industry the agriculture sector currently finds itself  in a state of deepening crisis, with lamb producers and dairy farmers in particular facing severe price pressures.

Welsh farmers work hard to deliver high quality, tasty, fresh and affordable food to World-leading standards, they are also ready and willing to meet the challenge of feeding our growing population. But to help them through these tough times they are calling for the continued support of the consumers to secure a positive future for the farming industry and to help harness the support of the public NFU Cymru recently launched a new campaign #BackWelshFarming.

The campaign started off with NFU Cymru taking a ‘taste’ of the countryside to Wales’ capital city in August, handing out Welsh produce to showcase the quality and versatility of Welsh produce first hand to consumers and to help explain to shoppers why it’s more important than ever to #backWelshfarming.

The unit has since travelled the length and breadth of Wales with farmers on hand to explain to the public why the farming industry is currently struggling and how they can help.

As shoppers and consumers, we can all make an effort to choose quality Welsh and indeed British food by buying directly from farms and farmshops, by choosing foods that are in season, by carefully reading labels for product origin and looking out for the Welsh Dragon on products and/or the Red Tractor logo. When out shopping consumers should also look out for the three ‘Ls’

  • Logos – indicating quality standards and origin of ingredients
  • Labels – indicate where products are from and how they are made
  • Location – point of sale locations like shops or supermarkets should be placing Welsh products in high-visibility areas.

We’re keen to harness Welsh consumers’ powerful voice so we can use it when it comes to getting retailers, restaurants and government in Wales to back the Welsh farming industry.

Wales is home to a very diverse range of high quality produce, that we, as farmers and food producers, are rightly proud of. There is tremendous potential to grow the market for what we produce in Wales, both within the UK and further afield, by playing to our strengths, our expertise and knowledge and our climate.

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The sharing economy’s role in re-shaping food distribution

By David Frost

Organic farmers and growers naturally welcome the return to growth in the market for organic food that the Soil Association and market analysts have been reporting for the past three years. Organic producers are more than just profit maximisers however; they also want to expand their market because they believe organically produced food has health benefits and because organic food production systems are sustainable and environmentally benign. As the recently published, ‘Communicating Organic Food Values’ puts it, “Organic farming is well suited to developing a vision of long-term systematic change to the food system.”

Despite these values there has been insufficient concern in the organic food and farming discourse about how organic food and its benefits can be made available to those on the lowest incomes. Even the multiple retailers who trade the most in organic food and pride themselves on their ethical, environmental and animal welfare credentials are targeting customers with most spending power. No surprise then that as market research suggests, sixty-six percent of all organic purchases are made by ABC1s and when non-buyers are asked why they don’t buy organic food, over half say that price is the main barrier. For those on low incomes it has to be the case of, “grub first, then ethics”. http://organicfoodandfarming.org.uk/organic-food-can-we-reduce-the-price-barrier/

It’s also the case that because food inequality is so closely related to income inequality it doesn’t seem to merit being a separate category in most political debates. As many people argue, we can’t solve the problem of food inequality without reducing the general level of inequality in society. While this may be true, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to do something about food inequality in the short-term.

In the work Naomi Salmon and I have been doing on Affordable Food and Human Rights my focus has been to look at how consumer access to good, and particularly organic food, can be improved during a period of increasing income inequality and declining social justice. How can we tackle food poverty? How can the best, nutritious food be made more widely available to those on low incomes?

Reformers need to remember that the long term is ultimately a series of short terms and in the economy, markets are continually changing. In the current situation, analysts have pointed to the incipient rise of a collaborative economy as new technology enables greater sharing of goods and services. In the UK food market we see examples such as Food Cooperatives like the Food Cooperative programme in Wales which has provided healthy Welsh food to the community through 340 healthy buying groups and 130 foods coops in schools; Food Banks – that on some estimates are used by up to 1 million people; Social Supermarkets that sell discounted food exclusively to those in poverty; FareShare – an organization that distributes surplus supermarket food; and Food Assemblies, platforms that have spread to the UK after starting in France in 2011.

There is also a group aiming to build their own new food system. In Greater Manchester, Kindling is trying to create a model that helps people to become organic food producers and increases access to good fresh food for everyone – “…as a right and not a privilege” in their words. So they are including people from all along the food chain –producers, distributors, caterers, customers and ‘land army volunteers’.

In Berlin – the sharing capital of Europe – I came across the Feuerbohne organic-shop-collective who want to make it possible for a larger number of people to buy organic food by having two price options: the solidarity price and the reduced price. And there is Biosphäre a not-for-profit retail shop where they say, “Organic for everyone. Our two price system with a reduced price for those on a low income means that good quality organic food doesn’t have to be a luxury”.

Also in Berlin, the first supermarket without prepackaged goods opened 2015.

Meanwhile in Zurich, Tor14 – a food cooperative – has aims similar to the Welsh Community Food Cooperatives. Their objective is to provide members with high quality, organic and GM free produce, where possible directly from the producer, at fair and affordable prices. Their shop offers organic products on average 30% cheaper than other food shops in Switzerland. Producers are paid a fair price and Tor14 also operates a weekly veg box which can be delivered by bicycle to customers’ home; and there are special offers such as bulk orders of citrus fruits from Spain and whole beef carcass from a Demeter farm, etc.

This year in the UK another discovery for me has been, ‘How it Should Be’ – hiSbe, a pilot store for an independent supermarket chain that started in Brighton in December 2013. They say, “It’s a social enterprise that exists to do the right thing, as well as make money.” With sentiments that recall how the Himalayan state of Bhutan sought to replace the goal of increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with Gross National Happiness (GNH), hiSbe say “ putting happiness first is a route to a more responsible, fair and sustainable food industry… we consider the happiness of people, animals and the planet when it comes to sourcing our products.” Their aim is operationalised by a sourcing policy summarised in eight imperatives – go local, pick seasonal, protect nature, support ethical, think welfare, save fish, consider waste, choose real.

Not bad ideas to include in a Food Manifesto for Wales.

There are many examples of what is being achieved in the short term. Maybe they don’t fully achieve the objectives of tackling food poverty and making the best, nutritious food available to all those on low incomes, but we need to avoid the pitfall of making the best the enemy of the good. These new models of food distribution may indeed be evidence of an emerging collaborative economy that challenges dominant food supply chains in ways that benefit those at either end of the chain: both producers and consumers.

You can contact David by emailing davidfrost@tyn-yr-helyg.com or by visiting his website at www.tyn-yr-helyg.com