Friday, November 20, 2009

Keeping it local

The following post epitomises just what drives us here at TCWS and represents exactly why we in Australia and Tasmania in particular should be buying local.

Chewing the fat recently with a prominent Tasmanian wine maker over a glass of his finest Pinot Noir I was swept back in time to a former life in South Africa. Of farming stock, I'm well aware of the many hardships faced by Tasmania's primary producers. If it's not prolonged drought, it's heavy, untimely frosts. This years God sent rains, as sweet as they are, have come with a few small challenges of their own. None of these challenges however, as daunting as they can be at times, are insurmountable. Sadly, the modern day farmers' most complex challenges stem not from the vagaries of Mother Nature but from a source far more sinister. The cut and thrust world of the large corporate entities.

Tasmanian dairy farmers are the most recent example of this threat. Victims of corporate margin protection along the dairy supply chain and also perhaps of their own complacent reliance on too few buyers resulting in no value adding research, many dairy farmers have their backs to the wall. A glance over any Tasmanian Agricultural Real Estate source will leave you shocked at the increasing number of prime dairy farms up for sale.

Many years ago I had the pleasure of managing the marketing interests of a number of South African timber growers. In South Africa, private farmers have to a large extent co-operatised their timber marketing effort to good effect. Through their co-operative effort, they now enjoy vertical integration into South Africa's timber industry and value add their forest produce to the n'th degree. Most importantly, they’re not price takers and nor are they dictated to by the large South African timber corporates.

Well into my third glass of that fine Tassie Pinot, I vaguely recognised the dulcet tones of a disgruntled South African timber farmer in the voice of my Australian wine maker. The big corporates are at it again!! The vineyard has been approached and the deal involves securing the entire 2009 vintage. Fantastic! I hear. The farmer can focus on viticulture and managing the vineyard secure in the knowledge that his grapes are sold even before their harvest. Yes, this year that is. So, what of next year or the year after when the farmer, “secure in the knowledge that his grapes are sold even before their harvest” has long since abandoned his former marketing links? Yes, like his dairy farming mates, he’s totally dependant on Mr Big Corporate. He becomes enslaved to the corporate contract and is forevermore a price taker instead of the price setter he should be.

The solution is not that difficult. It’s about buying local. Supporting your farmer introduces competition and flexibility into his markets and don’t as a consumer for one second believe that the supposed lower prices you believe you will pay at the corporate bottle shop are in your favour. Think widely and buy local.

Stop the rot by checking out Support your farmers by buying local.

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