I learnt today from an article on The Guardian that Tesco are going to invest in a scheme designed to help small dairy farmers. I have long been aware that the large supermarkets try to drive down prices as much as possible and whilst this is good for consumers it inevitably means that the small farmer struggles to stay in business when faced with this sort of pressure. I buy my milk direct from the dairy because they help to subsidise and support farmers. I also buy my fruit and vegetables from a local box scheme, not only to cut down on packaging but also because it offers farmers a fairer deal.
The scheme that Tesco is proposing will give direct supply contracts to 850 farmers meaning that the middle man is cut out and their profit is increased by 4p a litre, although the consumer will still pay the same for their litre of milk. In addition to this Tesco intend to launch a scheme called local choice where customers will have the choice to buy milk from smaller local farmer. On this scheme the customer will pay more for their milk, around 8p a litre extra but farmers will receive 23.5p on every litre of milk compared to the current 18p. The article states that currently farmers make a loss of around 20 a litre, so whilst these measures seem small they could go a long way towards helping smaller farmers.
It will be interesting to see firstly whether customers prefer to pay slightly more for locally produced milk and secondly whether the other large supermarkets follow suit. If successful perhaps supermarkets will start to source more goods locally. Personally I would rather eat a piece a fruit knowing it had been picked yesterday on a local farm, than one that had been shipped hundreds of miles and kept artificially fresh. One thing I have noticed since buying my vegetables from a box scheme is that they taste much better. Another thing is they don’t keep for weeks and weeks in the fridge. A lettuce from a supermarket will still be edible 3 or sometimes 4 weeks after you buy it, but this can’t be normal. If you grew it in your garden you would need to eat it within 3 or 4 days and then it would start to decay. It makes me wonder what the supermarkets add to fruit and vegetable to give them such an unnatural prolonged shelf life.