Farm Business January 2010

At the time of writing the received wisdom is that, albeit we are the last of the major economic countries to do so, Britain has come out of recession.  The question now is what sort of economic future we can expect – rapid or sluggish growth, or, God forbid, we’re heading for a double dip recession.

The country’s debt crisis is going to make it tough on all businesses for the next year, so I am delighted that the Government has at last decided there is going to be a supermarket ombudsman as I am hopeful that it may help bring about a fairer business relationship between retailer and supplier, especially small suppliers.  This in turn might have some considerable bearing on quite how tough the next year or so is for farmers and suppliers to these particular customers.

The recession has made many consumers review their shopping habits and already some food sectors, notably organic, have fallen victim and are experiencing massive decline.  Supermarkets have seized the opportunity to really ramp up their own label push and relentlessly pursue the commoditization of many categories.

What I don’t want to see as an outcome of this recession is less choice, more commoditization and more small producers and suppliers being pushed out of the market and out of business.

I believe that the consumer is fed up to the back teeth with corporate Britain. If there is one thing that the recession has shown is that these corporate entities have only been thinking about themselves and small players have suffered as a consequence.  As bankers continue to take embarrassingly huge bonuses there are still myriad small businesses struggling to get funding that is desperately needed to keep them alive.

What I would say to small producers is not to lose hope.  I sense a new mood in the air as the public is increasingly seeking out farmers and suppliers with whom they can have a direct relationship.  Not the cynical ‘generic’ photo of a farmer on the front of a pack, but a real person who has produced something out of passion and knowledge – people they feel they can trust and have access to.

I have always believed in the power of the brand, and never more so than now.  When you lose faith in corporate Britain, the only thing you have to fall back on is your community, your neighbours and your friends.  I think it could be the tipping point for localization and regionalization, something that supermarkets have only tentatively approached and so far, in my view, with little conviction.  My evidence?  Just look at the growth in farm shops and farmers markets.  Local butchers are booming, and regardless of attempts by the supermarkets to grab and dominate this market too, they simply cannot compete with the personal service and expertise these locals offer.  Thank God for small mercies.  Happy New Year


~ by theblackfarmer on January 27, 2010.

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