October 10, 2008

Farms Urged to Emulate the French

By Walker, Ben

Farms should pool their produce and market it through French- style consortia so that the rural economy can fully exploit the premiums attached to traditionally produced foods, say experts. Professor Henry Buller, of the University of Exeter, told last week's Sustainable Development Research Network Conference that the rural economy was failing to make the most of the thumping premiums available to producers of locally grown foods because farms were continuing to operate alone, rather than pooling their harvests with their neighbours and marketing their produce through regional farming consortia.

His call came as evidence published at the conference by Professor Richard Tiffin, of the University of Reading, showed that consumers are willing to pay a premium to buy products such as locally sourced lamb.

The research showed that the premium, 87p on 500g of lamb over and above the norm, is much greater than the premium consumers will pay on GM-free lamb, which is 3On per 500g.

But Buller warned that while robust profits can be made on local foods, total yields are far lower than they could be because individual farms are unable to supply produce in volumes large enough to satisfy major retailers.

"In England we tend to market local foods from individual farms," Buller said. "So we have a terrible problem getting these products out in volume."

In France and Italy, local farms have realised that they can join forces to produce greater amounts of regional produce, said Buller. "As we see in France and Italy, they sell in huge volumes to their regionalised supermarkets."

The data presented by Tiffin also found that the retail premium is attained by the way the food is produced, rather than whether or not it was healthier. "Consumers are much more interested in the system of farming than the healthiness of the food," he said.

But Buller said that locally produced meat is usually healthier, because there are higher levels of vitamin E in local meats and lower levels of skatole, which is said to hamper the taste of meat. "Rural enterprises can gain added value from producing high-quality products, in terms of taste and nutrition," he said.

Locally produced food: customers are prepared to pay more

Copyright Haymarket Business Publications Ltd. Sep 19, 2008

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