Localising moves in four Eastern European countries

The Romanian parliament has passed a law requiring large retailers with a turnover of 2m euros to allocate a minimum of 51% of existing space for fresh produce to products sourced locally, from a short supply chain.

The law, which came into effect last month, initially stated that products should come only from Romania but had to be amended after Brussels warned that this would be a breach of EU regulation. Under the amended text, Bulgarian and Hungarian products would also qualify as part of a short supply chain.

roamiancoop

French retailer Carrefour has founded an agricultural co-operative in a Romanian village to bring local fresh produce to its shelves. It includes 80 families of producers who own 60 hectares of agricultural land. Carrefour will source 5,000 tonnes of fruit and veg from the local co-op in the village of Varasti.

Through the co-op, which officially launches this month, farmers will be able to scale up production and have a single collection centre. The partnership with Carrefour guarantees them a production plan and price, and means they will receive fast payments for their products.

RetailEU described the legislation as protectionist but added that Romania is not the only country concerned about its local manufacturers; Slovakia  wanted to force supermarkets to inform customers at the entrance of the number of Slovakian products in the store and recently the Polish government introduced a “supermarket tax” on all major (and therefore foreign) retailers, as Hungary has already done.

 

 

 

Local development as a strategic alternative in Fife

Once again many will question the dependence on a global market economy as headlines shout, “China’s ‘Black Monday’ sends markets reeling”. For months, in a range of publications, Mohamed El-Erian, who chairs President Obama’s Global Development Council, has been forecasting the risk of a ‘perfect storm’, adding that considering ‘its destructive potential, it warrants serious attention by policymakers’, though China does not loom large in his list of contributing factors.

fifediet small family2

Mike Small (with family, above) is said to be ‘behind’ the Fife Diet local eating experiment, which aims to relocalise food production and distribution on a regional basis, as a response to globalisation and climate change. See a 2008 Telegraph article and more in depth on the Transition Culture website.

Remarkably, it is funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund and has also received funding from Celebrating Fife, the Co-op Community Fund and Awards for All.

Over an eight year period the Fife Diet has developed from a simple idea framed around ‘local eating’ to a complex one about sustainable food, environmental justice, globalisation and culture. They set out to build a sustainable food movement that popularised eating healthy, local produce in Fife, starting from the understanding that there is something fundamentally wrong with the food system but also from the thought that they could, by acting collectively, do something about it.

They now believe that food has become central to the precarious economy. Real progress won’t be made until control is regained over the retail experience, and profiteers that benefit from products that fuel obesity are confronted.

In the Food Manifesto they are developing, they call for opportunities for the ‘right to grow’ and an expectation of quality healthy food in our public institutions, aiming eventually to become – as the Scottish government puts it, a ‘Good Food Nation’.

FAQ: “But what fruit do you eat?” Fife’s Pittormie fruit farm produce:

fife's pittormirefruitboxjuly091

Remarkable achievements listed on their site:

CELEBRATING OUR OWN FOOD CULTURE

When we started we were met by a mixture of incredulity and poorly-disguised scepticism. People really didn’t think that you could eat food from Fife, and survive at all. It was just unthinkable, unimaginable.

CARBON SAVINGS

In 2011-2012 we saved 1019 tonnes of C02e. Then, in a three year period (April 2012- March 2015) we saved a further 6976.37 tonnes of C02e. These are immediate savings, by diverting food waste from landfill thereby avoiding creating methane, for example, or by sequestering carbon and enriching soil with compost, but also by eating locally, growing our own food, eating organic, changing the meat we ate (and eating less of it).

OUTREACH

We held or attended over 500 outreach events over the three years, engaging with 15,520 people.

GROWING SPACES

We established a community food growing garden, a wildlife and forest garden and a vibrant volunteer and community group who are maintaining them. We hosted 57 events at the garden, including the children’s gardening club, large community lunches and volunteer sessions.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

We ran 79 weekly children’s gardening clubs (79 clubs over three years) and hosted 7 large-scale community events.

LEADING THE WAY

We were part of building a new food movement in Scotland that encompasses the right to food, championing small producers, insisting on sustainability as a measurement of quality in food production and celebrating food sovereignty.

NEW ORCHARDS

We planted 7 orchards around Scotland from Galloway to Sutherland with our Silver Bough tour (‘ a cultural conversation about apples’).

SCHOOL LUNCHES PILOT

We collaborated with Fife Council and the Soil Association in a pilot project exploring regionally sourced, healthy, sustainable and organic school lunches. See here.

INSPIRATIONAL PRINTED MATERIAL

We published a series of inspiring posters, postcards, booklets and other materials including recipe books, calendars, guides on native apple varieties and a booklet on gardening with kids. We also produced a free Ebook for our members of Collected Recipes from the life of the project.

BIRTHING THE ORCHARD COLLECTIVE

We curated and hosted the National Orchard gathering and helping the Orchard Collective into existence.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

We are proud to have been part of a wider movement and welcomed the collaborative work over the past eight years with such groups as Nourish, the Soil Association, Slow Food, Permaculture Scotland and Transition Towns.

Much more here: http://fifediet.co.uk/fife-diet-chronology/

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End note: protect and rediversify local economies

pp hines logoAs LWM’s co-founder, Colin Hines, has written, there is growing opposition to a system which regards as inevitable the driving down of tax rates for higher income earners, worsens social and environmental conditions and kills local jobs and small business opportunities:

“Whistling in the dark to keep up the nation’s economic spirits by promising export-led growth in an era of rising Asian dominance is a ridiculous policy. The alternative to these dangerous and damaging dark alleys is to propose a set of practical measures for protecting and rediversifyng local economies. This is the only way to tackle the economic and environmental crises, return local control of the economy to citizens and provide a sense of hope for their future . . .”

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Good taxpaying corporate citizens

fairtaxmark logoThe Fair Tax Mark is being adopted by UK business setting a new standard in responsible tax practice – from the smallest shop to the biggest multinational. It is the label for good taxpayers – companies and organisations that are proud to pay their fair share of tax.

The Fair Tax Mark is an assurance that a company is open and transparent about its tax affairs and pays the right amount of corporation tax at the right time in the right place. It has been awarded to several companies, including:

  • SSE, the UK’s broadest-based energy company;
  • Go Ahead Group, a FTSE250 UK company that operates train and bus services;
  • Unity Trust Bank, a specialist bank for social economy organisations and the wider civil society;
  • Lush Cosmetics, a multinational manufacturer and seller of handmade cosmetics;
  • Midcounties, the largest independent co-operative society in the UK, operating a range of businesses in Food, Travel, Pharmacy, Funeral, Childcare, Energy, Post Offices and Flexible Benefits;
  • Urban IT Support, a small firm providing easy-to-understand computer, network and mobile device support to homes and businesses;
  • and The Phone Co-op, the only telecoms provider in the UK that is owned and run by its customers.

fair tax header,

Syriza MPs help to promote the social economy by donating 10-20% of their wage

anca voinea co-opIn a Co-operative News article, Anca Voinea notes that  Syriza has highlighted the importance of reviving the co-op movement, seeing it as a distinct economic model that would be part of their movement for a broader social and solidarity economy.

Syriza had shown interest in the movement over the last two years and is preparing for new legislation to support co-operative principles, promote co-operative education, transfer of companies to the workers and establish co-operatives of similar standards to those in Latin America and France.

syriza2

 

When incoming prime minister Alexis Tsipras (above) presented his agenda to parliament, he made a commitment to growing the social economy, including co-ops. Syriza has now launched a public consultation to gather opinions about the promotion of the social economy.

VioMe in Thessaloniki went bankrupt and the workers, who had not been paid for over a year, occupied the building to prevent the owner from taking away the machinery and products in stock. The factory is now in public administration and the workers are fighting a legal battle for ownership of the enterprise. They are also calling for a change in the legal framework to allow workers to take over enterprises. Mr Tsipras promised to support this effort with legal reforms. He has also spoken about the importance of co-operative banks as a vehicle for development.

Reading about this venture reminded the writer about an Argentinian workers’ initiative recorded here.

greek solidarity header

An online platform, Solidarity4all, first mooted by the late Tony Benn, showcases different examples of informal co-operation, from social pharmacies to grocery stores or free lessons, including newly formed co-ops. Syriza has helped the Solidarity4All initiative, with each MP donating 10-20% of their wage to promote the social economy. People have taken matters into their own hands through grassroots activism and local collective action. The many and varied social solidarity initiatives include social pharmacies, social medical clinics, social kitchens, social groceries, Okmarkets without middlemen, a social collective of mental health professionals, social solidarity drop in centres, time banks (sharing skills and time), olive oil producers sharing olive oil, the ‘potato movement’ where farmers trade direct with consumers cutting out the supermarkets. Read more about Solidarity4All here.

Co-operatives: raising and developing the weakest part of our local communities and civil society?

The roots of the co-operative movement in Italy go back to 19th century workers’ associations, with credit services, agricultural and building co-ops forming an important part of the overall economy. There are more than 20, 000 cooperatives, including housing and banking movements, with over 3 million members.

In 2011 Jeffrey Hollander asserted that the success of worker cooperative models in Italy and Spain presents US & UK with a compelling model for building a new, sustainable economy: 

italian co-ops text pics

An alternative to the “throw-away culture created by the powers that control the economic and financial policies of the globalized world”

Reuters reports that Pope Francis, speaking to members of the Confederation of Italian Co-operatives, condemned economic systems that “suffocate hope” and a globalised culture that treated its employees as disposable. New models and methods are needed that offer an alternative to the “throw-away culture created by the powers that control the economic and financial policies of the globalized world.”

He adds:

“Co-operatives should continue to be the motor that raises and develops the weakest part of our local communities and civil society”

The Pope said that the establishment of more co-operatives could help to solve crises of unemployment among young people and offer women jobs with a work-life balance that enabled them to care for their families.

Finally he called for money to be ‘at the service of life, managed in the right way by real co-operatives where capital does not command men but men command capital.

Stroudco Food Hub

stroudco food hub logo

Stroudco Food Hub – which has one part-time paid member of staff and an increasing group of enthusiastic volunteers is seven years old. It currently supports some 57 local food and drink producers, ranging from well-known names such as Stroud Brewery and Winstone’s Ice Cream to allotment growers and school gardeners offering just a few bunches of carrots and home cooks selling surplus jars of jam.

About 522 households are now registered with the food hub, which presents Stroud residents with a full scale local alternative to supermarket shopping. Every week customers go online to choose from a wide range of products listed within the not-for-profit co-operative’s comprehensive catalogue and collect their orders from pick-up points such as Stroud Valleys School, the Quaker Meeting House in Nailsworth or the Brunel Mall, or have them delivered if within three miles of the school.

Almost everything available in the big stores can be purchased through Stroudco, with the community interest company linking up with local traders such as Global Organics and Hania Cheeses from the town’s Shambles Market and Bristol-based workers’ co-operative Essential Wholefoods to provide products that cannot be sourced on the doorstep.

Around 90% of the products in their catalogue come from within 15 miles of Stroud, though some items have to be found further afield. However, if a new producer starts to produce the same product locally, they are given preference.

Stroudco is one of a number of food hubs operating all over the world and has already inspired similar schemes in Dursley and the Forest of Dean.

Read far more here: http://www.gloucestershireecho.co.uk/Food-Stroudco-Food-Hub-provides-alternative/story-22788004-detail/story.html

Reflections – Food & Our Future discussion event

A quick few personal reflections after our Food and Our Future event last night. These are more a response than an account, so if you weren’t there then apologies as you’re getting much less than half the conversation.
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Firstly thanks to all the people who came – really brilliant turnout – and even more to our excellent speakers, Chris Mould, Liz Dowler and Adrian Phillips, and Kate for firm chairing.
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I was glad Adrian Phillips took the macro-economic line he did – talking about the profit motives that lead to our unhealthy, unjust and wasteful consumption and shopping habits. Lots of points well made. I’d add a caveat though – I think the profit motive is pretty integral to being human, and something we can live with or even make into something positive occasionally – but it becomes dangerous when a lot of power ends up in a few hands, and the corporate power over our food supply demonstrates that danger nicely in those poor health, injustice and waste impacts.
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Amidst strong statements on the need for greater justice in access to food,  Liz Dowler mentioned that despite recent rises and food poverty, we don’t actually pay that much (say, the full production costs) for our food, and that this is another source of injustice. I’ve often reflected on this: we used to pay far more for food and far less for housing. The reversal of that has impacted horrendously on a poorly paid (local and global) farming sector and as Liz pointed out on those working for supermarkets on zero hour contracts, as part of forcing down prices for food many of us then waste.
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Funnily enough, I seem to find myself making a point about community economic resilience and strengthening the local food economy – across rural and urban areas, to better redistribute responsibility, power and profit and shorten the chains. Hopefully it’s understood that this isn’t about thinking you can feed Birmingham from a few fields of hinterland, but about catalysing the structural/economic changes that are essential for sustainable development.
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Lastly this was another forum in which there was some discussion of the comparative merits of “just getting on and doing it for yourself” (directly helping a foodbank to feed hungry people) and the duty of the state to do something (abandon some of the more inhumane benefit changes). I find this debate a little frustrating – also often heard about environment action –  because it’s so obvious that the one needs the other, and that if you do the one you need to do or at least support the other. I doubt anyone really thinks you shouldn’t help out at the foodbank because it only encourages the government to penalise the poor. As well as the direct impacts, by doing the brilliant work they do to help real people, Chris Mould can (and did, to us) put the case more powerfully to those who need persuading than can those of us who just observe.
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Alongside helping food banks we have a duty to adopt responsible diets ourselves: in reducing meat and dairy, paying as fair prices as we can, eating seasonally and wasting much less. We need a good diet as fuel for speaking out against injustice and working towards structural change.
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There will be plenty more to report- watch this space for more.
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Karen Leach
Coordinator

Co-operative stores could sell good quality food produced on its farms by workers on decent terms and conditions

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.

In the best farmers’ markets provenance is closely scrutinised

gerb gerbrandsGerb Gerbrands, who founded the flourishing farmers’ market with Clare Honeyfield (Made In Stroud shop) in 1999, wrote in the Stroud News and Journal about the difference between farmers’ market stallholders and those at ‘ordinary’ markets.

He receives applications from potential stall-holders a who are asked to fill in a form which states: “If products are made with bought-in ingredients, those ingredients must be from a local producer ‘wherever possible’ “. Gerbrands explains: This is to:

  • guarantee traceability,
  • reduce food miles
  • and bolster the local economy

stroud farmers marketAn application to sell meat pies was preceded by an email stating that their meat was bought as locally as possible and with full traceability – from Towers Thompson.

He searched on this name and saw that TT is an international meat and dairy group based in Avonmouth; all their other ingredients came from BAKO – whose lorries, Gerbrands points out, hurtle up and down the motorway supplying catering businesses around the country.

He ends: “Needless to say this application was turned down.

“To sell a product like pies at the market a business has to use butter produced locally, flour milled locally, vegetables grown locally and meat reared locally”.

 

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But even in Stroud, where local food procurement works so well, it can be threatened by the political hierarchy and market dogma – see Stroud District Council: serving or dictating?

By request, contact details added:

Cllr. John Marjoram, jmgreenstroud@gmail.com

Sue Smith, editor, Stroud News and Journal, sue.smith@gwent-wales.co.uk

 

 

More localisation of food-growing, less market speculation and global trading

Mark Coba for CNBC reports: “We have two or three times the amount of food right now that is needed to feed the number of people in the world . . . A lot of people aren’t analyzing the situation correctly. We can deal with short-term food shortages after a disaster, but fixing long term hunger gets ignored”: the words of Joshua Muldavin, Professor of Geography at Sarah Lawrence College, USA .

Lack of ‘effective’ demand

“We don’t have a food shortage problem; what we have is a distribution problem and an income problem. People . . . don’t have enough money to buy it”, agrees Emelie Peine, professor of international politics and economy at the University of Puget Sound. 

Food waste

Roger Johnson, North Dakota president of the US National Farmers Union, added that a major problem causing scarcity is that up to half of all food produced is wasted:

“In the undeveloped world, the waste happens before the food gets to people, from lack of roads and proper storage facilities, and the food rots; in the developed world, it’s the staggering amount of food that’s thrown out after it gets to our plates.” He added: “Many farmers don’t make enough to live on each year. Underdeveloped economies and some global trade are pushing them to the side.”

Unfair trade

In ‘developed’ Britain, there is also an ‘income problem’ as well, because supermarkets often buy fruit, vegetables, eggs and pigmeat cheaply and sell them dearly. For more than ten years they have bought liquid milk at below production costs, causing farmers to leave the dairy sector.

“Tame the investing markets”, said Muldavin

“The market trading of commodities is overboard and not helping food prices, Why does a bushel of wheat have to be traded five times a day?”

Remarkably, a professor of agribusiness at Arizona State University, Tim Richards, pointed out: “We’re destroying local food markets around the world by forcing them to buy U.S. commodities.”

Is adopting GM technology the answer?

“GM technology comes with a risk. I’m not in favor of genetically modified foods to feed a starving world; the health side effects can be dangerous in my opinion.

“What we need is more localization of food-growing. Let the crops natural to the land grow, instead of pushing crops that are not meant to be there,” said chef Mary Lawton Johnson.