The Sweet Smell of Spring and The Real Cost of Below Cost Selling
There is a real sense of spring in the air and about time too. The new season crops are just starting, last week Declan harvested the first of our own winter purslane. If you have never come across this green before it is a lovely tender salad leaf, and well worth a try. It is also known as miner’s lettuce as a result of California gold miners using it to get their daily dose of vitamin C to prevent scurvy.
The first wild rocket is also ready as is the first of our own flat parsley. We have been busy sowing salad and radish and all sorts of lovely greens over the last couple of weeks and we will be starting back into harvesting our own kale and leeks soon and the first crop of spinach from our tunnels is nearly ready.
The crown jewel of this time of the year is purple sprouting broccoli and we are hopeful with a little good weather that it will recover and start producing those tender beautiful purple shoots soon.
We have been waiting and waiting for a little break in the weather to allow us to at least start ploughing and at last it has come. We are now busy working away on the farm preparing ground, ordering seeds, and getting the first plantings planned. This is where the good food starts, this is where we get the crops started and put in months of hard work in some cases before we get to pull the first carrot from the ground.
That’s it you see, farming isn’t a rushed job it takes time and patience a lot of effort, lots of planning, investment and hard work, especially when you are growing as many crops as we are.
That is why it was with some justification that the farmers and the IFA (Irish farmers association) came out and protested at an Aldi store in Dublin last week against below cost selling. Which-ever way the supermarkets spin it the farmer ultimately pays the price. You cannot expect production of a cabbage for 29c, it doesn’t work. You grow to contract, then if the supermarket decides to drop the price you have no-where to go, you are caught.
The IFA National Chairman Jer Bergin said “Growers are fed up that the quality product from their investment and hard work is used as cannon fodder in the war of attrition between the major multiples.”
“The fresh produce sector is in ongoing decline and we will not allow the industry to be decimated by crude price-cutting tactics, which perpetuate the lie that below-cost selling has no consequences for producers and growers.
“Supermarkets are quick to use local individual growers for promotion, but that belies the real situation where Irish growers are being pushed out by unsustainable prices in the vegetable sector.
“Below-cost selling is also damaging locally-owned greengrocers and wholesalers and contributes to overshopping and food waste,” he concluded.
Below cost selling of fresh food is a feature of our supermarket shopping landscape. It will ultimately hurt not only Irish growers, but the way our food is produced. Corners will be cut, because growers will be forced to try and produce more for less. We hand this power to the supermarkets, but we can easily take it away.
To quote the Guardian in a recent article about Lidl and their ability to sell a pair of jeans at £5.99: "It meets a need and it does so by putting the tightest possible squeeze on its suppliers......" and ".......because when your business model is based on offering the lowest possible prices, someone has to subsidise that and that someone is the worker stitching those jeans........... they pay their workers a pittance (23p a hour on an 8h, 6 day week).
The bottom line somebody always pays. That’s why I am eternally thankful for you our customers. You make our business possible and our farming methods viable. Thank you and have a fantastic St Patricks day!
P.S. You can get hold of all that lovely fresh stuff from our farm on our website www.greenearthorganics.ie It’s deliveries as usual this week even on St Patrick’s day.