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Independent Green Voice

OPPOSING CORPORATE CONTROL
of the Food Supply

According to Defra's annual Agriculture in the UK 2004 report published at the end of January on the internet, Britain's self-sufficiency in indigenous food -- that which can be produced in the UK -- has fallen by 12% over the last ten years.

It is down from 86.2% in 1994 to an appalling 74.2% in 2004.

Britain is developing a growing and unhealthy reliance on cheaper, lower standard imports.

It is an unhealthy development because we are becoming dependent upon vulnerable outside sources, we are losing jobs and custodians of the countryside, and the environment is suffering from unnecessary long-distance trade.

Reference: The report can be downloaded at http://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/publications/auk/2004/excel.asp The figures for Self Sufficiency are at Table 4.1 http://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/publications/auk/2004/4-1.xls

LEGISLATE TO LIMIT THE MARKET SHARE OF SUPERMARKETS
So, what is to be done? Some extensive ideas are here.

Additionally, in the Farmer's Guardian of 3 December 2004, Richard Boden, of the Wye Farmers Market in Kent and its Recycling Group, Wyecycle, suggests this interesting policy:

Farmers Guardian (FG, Nov 26) is full of pleas from farming organisations for supermarkets to pay a fair price. For the NFU, Soil Association and Farm to be reduced to begging for 'more please' at the high table of Tesco, is not only demeaning for a proud industry but completely futile.
It is a waste of their time and their members' subscription fees to lobby the supermarkets, which will only continue to make sympathetic noises while laughing all the way to the bank.
Instead, all energies should be put into campaigning on the one issue at the heart of the problem; market share.
Alliances should be formed with environmental organisations concerned about food miles, trade bodies campaigning on the decline of the independent retailer, and all the other special interest groups whose cause would be furthered by seeing a reversal in the concentration of market share in food retailing.
Working with these allies, farming organisations could deliver a loud and clear message to Government that legislation on market share would benefit farmers, the environment and the public and harm no-one but a handful of obscenely rich people.
To quote George Monbiot: "Every year the list is the same, but every year it still comes as a shock. Of the 10 richest people on earth, five have the same surname. It's not Gates, or Murdoch, or Rockefeller, but Walton. They are the heirs and trustees of the supermarket chain Wal-Mart. Between them they are worth $l00bn."
Farmers can either continue to watch their industry be decimated while kidding themselves that they can negotiate with such people, or they can get real and start demanding legislation to reverse the concentration of market share in food retailing.

MARKET SHARE IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL
He expands on this in a Wyecycle Press Release under the above title, which reads:

Every politician would claim to be at least slightly concerned about the following issues:

  • Global warming
  • Traffic congestion
  • Illness and injury caused by road traffic
  • The balance of payments deficit
  • Loss of bio-diversity in the countryside
  • Britain's "waste crisis"
  • Poor diet and its effects
  • Pollution and ill health caused by chemical dependant agriculture
  • The well-being of developing countries
  • Our absolute dependence on oil
  • Falling employment in agriculture and allied industries
  • Animal welfare
  • Loss of community; "clone town Britain"
  • The cost to the taxpayer of propping up agriculture and the rural economy

When people -- farmers, small businesses, politicians -- moan about "the supermarkets", the fundamental concern is about market share and the power it brings.

What is and what isn't a "supermarket" must therefore be defined according to how much market share a business has. WyeCycle would define a supermarket as being any business responsible for more than 1% of UK food retailing.

It is possible, using this definition, to debunk the myth that, "The public like shopping at supermarkets".

The public do like to do all of their weekly shopping under one roof, with a wide range of produce, ideally with an adjacent car park.

They do not demand that such a place is owned by a company responsible for more than 1% of UK food retailing.

Once this difference is understood between what the public considers to be a supermarket and what a supermarket actually is, it becomes possible to see the solution to the issues outlined above.

By introducing legislation stating that no one company may be responsible for more than 1% of UK food retailing, all of these issues would be simultaneously addressed.

Such legislation would not require the public to change their habits in any way, making it a vote winner for all the benefits it would bring rather than a vote loser.

All that is required is the political will to show that it is our elected representatives, rather than big business, who run the country.

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