Their supply chains are not only better for the environment—they also help small producers get paidby Yasemin Craggs Mersinoglu / May 4, 2020 / Leave a comment
Previously seen as having limited appeal, food delivery schemes—often called “veg boxes”—have now exploded in popularity. A Share of The Crop, a veg box supplier which sources produce from southeast England, received a year’s worth of additional orders during a single week in March. Since the coronavirus pandemic took over Britain, three million people have tried such a scheme or bought food from a local farm for the first time, a YouGov survey has found.
As Britons struggle to get to the supermarket, and concerns about stockpiling persist, more farms have pivoted to home delivery services. Unprecedented demand means many suppliers are now having to turn down new customers. While it is still too early to determine the long-term impact, some are optimistic that the rise of veg boxes could spark a shift towards a more equitable model for agriculture.
“My hope is that it’s an opportunity to create a fair transition into a more sustainable food system,” said Lauren Simpson, a new farmer based in West Wales.
Supermarkets currently dominate the retail sector, with the “Big Four”—Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons—often lobbying together and using their significant bargaining power to push down prices paid to farmers. In 2016, it was estimated that producers received 9p for every pound spent in a supermarket, compared to 45-60 per cent of the money consumers spent on food in the 1950s. Veg boxes—and comparable schemes supplying fresh fruit, dairy and poultry—offer smallholder farmers and smaller-scale retailers the opportunity to sell directly to members of the public and ensure a fairer price. Simpson claims this alternative means “producers are in control and have direct support from their community,” rather than being beholden to overnight order changes by the Big Four.
Simpson is a member of the Landworkers Alliance, the UK arm of La Via Campesina, the international peasant movement. The alliance advocates for “food sovereignty,” which is defined as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.”
The group is lobbying for the government to give grants to new entrants to the industry, citing the need to grow more food in the UK. In light of the pandemic, it is also seeking emergency measures including a support fund for small farms, as well as further assistance…