There was an interesting piece on Countrywide last week documenting the demise of our indigenous vegetable growing industry. All the interviewed vegetable growers told the same story, loss leading and chasing the cheapest possible produce by supermarkets is destroying our industry. In some cases, refusing a very basic increase of a few cents to ensure survival of some of Ireland’s vegetable farms.
We have been led to believe that carrots at €.49 or broccoli at €.79 is the norm, or Brussel sprouts for €.05! This is loss leading as it is impossible to produce crops for these prices. The market will always chase the cheapest option, always, using cheap import pricing as a barometer to value locally grown food.
Not only are our food growers closing doors, so too are smaller independent retailers who haven’t the scale and cannot compete with supermarket pricing.
What happens when this short-term approach to food supply eventually leads to the last vegetable farms and independent retailers closing their doors. Where then will our food come from when there is a climate shock, as there was in Spain earlier this year. Where then will supermarkets look to supply our food? Where is the long-term vision and the commitment to sustainability in this food sourcing strategy?
Here’s another interesting fact about retailing in Ireland: ‘the restrictive practices order 1987 prohibits the sale of grocery products at below net invoice price’ but this law does not include fresh produce! It is deemed permissible to allow loss leading on all things fresh, and that includes you may be surprised to learn not only fruit and vegetables, but also milk, meat, and fish.
Setting a basic requirement to sell fresh food at fair prices would level the playing field would allow a more measured amount of the sale price to go to the farmer and give independent retailers a fighting chance.
An IFA commissioned economics report published last March, stated that retail prices compression threatens the viability of Irish horticulture which could lead to even more reliance on imports to feed our nation.
The most recent national field vegetable census showed that the number of field vegetable growers fell from 377 in 1999 to 165 in 2014. That is a contraction of 56% These skills are lost for ever, and once they are gone are difficult to replace.
I for one am grateful for our own farm and the farmers that supply us, we aim to pay fairly for the food we produce and buy, we price our produce as competitively as we can, and we feel by removing the middleman we are able to reasonably compete with the big supermarkets. But not if they continue to sell produce for below the cost of production.
We are lucky and thankful to have our own farm and also to have a network of great Irish organic farmers that we source our food from. We can’t wait to be harvesting more of our own produce and receiving the amazing produce from our other Irish suppliers and you can see all the IRISH produce we currently have here.
Please remember your purchase with us makes a massive difference, thank you for your continued support.