Local Growers featured in National Press

by Admin on May 12, 2015



Alistair McGowan during filming the TEV Film Greening The Vale

Alistair McGowan during filming the TEV Film
Greening The Vale

The Observer newspaper ( Sunday 10 May 2015) featured some of the fears of local growers in the Vale as they are squeezed by the supermarkets on the price they get for the fresh vegetable and salad crops they grow. Here is a taste of what the article said:

“A recent report by market analysts Begbies Traynor said the search by supermarkets for ever cheaper food was having a devastating effect on farmers and food-and-drink producers. It showed that the number of small and medium-sized businesses supplying supermarkets and in “significant” distress has doubled in a year from 728 to 1,414. “UK suppliers could find themselves squeezed even further, if not stamped out altogether,” it concluded.

It all rings horribly true for Steve(a pseudonym), whose family farm has been growing lettuce, courgettes and tomatoes in Worcestershire’s Vale of Evesham for more than 25 years.

“At some point we’re going to be forced to retire because of the prices,” he says. “The government is going to lose all its salad producers. It’s a shame to lose a tradition. Evesham used to be full of market gardeners. It’s empty now; there’s nothing left. There are six to eight growers that are quite big and a few small ones, but they won’t last long.

“Any farmer who says it’s good is lying. People are scared. The supermarkets say, ‘You can’t match the price? Sorry, we’re going elsewhere.’ I was making more money per kilo of lettuce 20 years ago. A box of courgettes went for £4 to £5.20 years ago; now it’s £1.80 to £2. At the same time, labour costs have gone from £2.80 an hour to £6.70. We’ve been forced to stop growing leeks and onions because of the price.”

Transition Evesham Vale (TEV)   conducted a comparison between the costs of fruit and vegetables at local farm shops and the Evesham supermarkets. People often assume the supermarkets are cheaper but that is not always the case and nor do they always have the range of local produce which farm shops do.

The five main supermarkets – Aldi, the Co-op, Lidl, Morrisons and Tesco were compared with five local farm shops around Evesham – Collis’s, Ellenden, Hampton’s, Meadwell and Wayside. Most of the farm shops stocked a range of high quality local produce – tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, cauliflower, beans, leeks, courgettes and so on, also plums, cherries and still some raspberries. The supermarkets’ prices were slightly cheaper overall, but certain items like runner beans were much cheaper in farm shops. That was also true for plums and cherries, some supermarkets had no plums at all (in the Vale, in August!), one had them from Spain instead!

However, other factors need to be born in mind. One is that supermarkets can sell at lower prices because they buy in bulk and drive down the prices they pay to the farmers – which does no-one any good in the long term. The next is that their produce – even if sourced in the UK – has usually been transported around the country and built up a number of food miles. Thirdly, money used in farm shops keeps it in our local economy, paying local wages and local farmers, profits don’t go off into the pockets of supermarket owners and shareholders (except the Co-op where the profits are shared by the members). The result? In purely cash terms, the supermarkets by 2-1, but in relation to our local economy and the planet’s future, score reversed 2-1 to the farm shops!

Steve Martin Chair of TEV commented: “This article is a disturbing insight into the plight of local growers, many of whom have farmed for many generations. It is time for supermarkets to step up to the plate and support local food supplies. If those who grow go out of business then everyone suffers and the nation’s food security becomes a major issue, “

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: