A resilient local food system
Practically all Welsh agriculture is heavily reliant on just 3 products; lamb, beef and milk. The vast majority is exported as raw [unprocessed] product and sold as such on the commodities market. This gives us a number of serious problems:
- It makes our food system extremely fragile. The financial health of our farming industry is heavily dependent on the red meat and dairy sectors. The fortunes of those sectors, by and large, are dictated by factors outside our control: export markets, exchange rates, regulation changes, membership or otherwise of the EU etc.
- It is a major constraint to developing local, secure, resilient food systems; how can you have a local system if you can only meet a fraction of the population’s nutritional needs?
- The profitability of livestock farming is notoriously low. There are many reasons for this, including price volatility and limited opportunities to add value. We churn out commodity products, for which we get commodity prices over which we have almost no control.
- Cropping enterprises are generally more profitable [although more risky]; the gross margins per ha. of cabbage, for instance, is more than 10 times that of beef and sheep enterprises.
- A wider range of products means we can develop a local food system that offers fruit and vegetables, bread, beer etc. as well as meat and dairy.
- A local food system provides opportunities for adding value; farmers and growers get retail prices for more of their product. They become price makers instead of price inheritors. It also creates jobs in food retailing and processing and supports the local economy.
- Each hectare of horticulture, using small-scale production methods, creates 2 full-time jobs. At present only 0.1% of the agricultural land in Wales is used to grow fruit and vegetables [3% of the nation’s 5 per day needs.]
- An increase in production of arable and horticultural crops.
- Equipment and storage facilities for primary processing of crops
- Facilities for adding value [eg. making cordials, jams, ice-cream, sausages, sauces etc.]
- A local marketing infrastructure [ local wholesalers/ retailers / farmers’ markets / food co-ops, CSA projects etc.]
- A local market; ie. a customer base that will buy through all these routes.