Molly Scott Cato* writes:

molly scott cato 4Comments from the Co-operative Group that the Co-operative Farms are a ‘non-core’ part of the business, suggests that the current generation of co-operative managers have a short-sighted view about their role in providing customers access to a reliable source of ‘good food’.

In my 2010 paper, The co-operative path to food security, I pointed to the increasing volatility of global food prices as speculators moved their gambling activities from financial products to commodities markets.

Charities working with the poor of the global South are increasingly focusing on the link between poverty and control over food supplies, which includes ownership of land. Without that control, our daily bread might become subject to the forces of extortion that have destroyed our banks and left us with the politics of austerity.

As a green economist I want the food I bought in my local Co-op to be produced as locally as possible. The Co-operative shops have not been successful in this regard because of their centralised distribution system, but my Midcounties Co-op has been building up its Local Harvest offer in recent years; I’m surely not the only customer who looks to see whether the vegetables on the shelves have been grown on the Co-operative Farms.

Local harvest pic text

The threat to sell the Co-operative Group’s farmlands and destroy the livelihoods they support pushes the possibility of sustainable local supply chains further away than ever. For me, co-operation is about two things: achieving justice in the supply chain by removing the possibility of the extraction of profit by those who do not earn it; and insulating ourselves against the worst excesses of the global capitalist economy.

*Molly Scott Cato is a member of the Welsh Government’s Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission. In March, the Commission published its report, which makes recommendations on growing and developing the co-operative and mutual economy in Wales, in order to create jobs and wealth.