Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Business Of Farming

Statistics are bandied about and for the most part they wash over us I think. One statistic that did register however was a throw away support for some argument on the radio I heard.

The first part was that there are only one hundred and fifty thousand farmers left in the UK. So far meaningless when you are not told how many there were ten or fifty years ago. However the next part drove home a point worth making. The average age of farmers in the UK is 60.

The speaker went on to say that farming is being allowed to die off as an industry. By far the majority of our food is imported by air and sea, adding to the ‘carbon footprint .‘ Some foodstuff should be imported of course because it is civilised to appreciate salad crops all the year round. Why do we need to import everything though?

It has to be due to economics at a level beyond my full understanding.  I believe it is marginally better now but there was a time when the large supermarkets exercised such a demand led regime over milk production that they were paying less than the cost of producing it.

Observation will tell you what a state we are in. Look at the bacon counter and try to find British bacon. It is there but struggling to maintain shelf space against ‘produce of Denmark’. I can’t see that the Danes should have lower wage rates than us which is very often why production is stopped in the UK in favour of overseas.
I get the impression that a once mighty farming industry is largely on its knees. So is it the buying  power of the large supermarket chains in a continual attempt to outdo their rivals in the never ending pursuit of more turnover that is killing our farming industries? Is it that no one is prepared to do a day’s work anymore? Have we have become lazy as a nation?

Or is it greed? Greed of the large companies whose accounting managers are trying to squeeze another penny from their operation?  Greed of the consumer who has had it drummed in that we can have,  and indeed should have, anything we want at a knock down price?

The consumer is caught in a trap. There are few people who can be careless about how they spend their money. For most the purchase of anything involves weighing up the price with the quality and style to arrive at a decision that will serve the required circumstances. 

When we want a couple of  things we support our local shop. The saving on fuel and wear and tear over driving 7 miles to the nearest  out of town retail area makes it worth paying higher prices up the road. But in general , the abundance of cheap clothes and produce and goods skews the balance of the purchasing equation. 

Ultimately it damages our standard of living. Ultimately we are worse off. Ultimately it puts people out of work.
Having won our hearts and our pockets it would be good if the large supermarkets stopped their emphasis on cheap cheap cheap  for the consumer and put a little back into the supply chain to ease the margins of the suppliers, the transport companies, the technology people, the maintenance people, all their suppliers  and all the other cogs in the machine who pay their staff who shop in those supermarkets.  And wouldn’t it be good to see British produce again?

Bob Shepherd Associates deals with the engine room of business. This means we have ideas for your business in Finance, Management, Marketing and all the back office tools needed to make the most of your expansion or development plans. We make a study of business from the inside – our clients are wildly different but all share common business features. Talk to Bob Shepherd Associates for a practical understanding approach.

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