Sunday, 13 April 2014

Farm shop economics.

Today's Polemic pain is far away from Ukrainian destabilisation, or biotech dumps or China slowdowns or ECB unconventional actions,  though as some have asked "what is unconventional about implementing a monetary policy that everyone else has done already?" to which my reply is "the Germans accepting it" because that is about as un-German-conventional as it gets. No today's pain is food labelling.

There has been a steady campaign in the UK and probably in every other over regulated, over litigious, overweight and over civil service staffed country in the world to protect the consumer from products that he/she is deemed too bloody stupid to work out is bad for them. Traffic lights, grids of nutritional daily recommended intakes and ratios of long chain organic compounds all grace the packaging to the point I wonder if they are going to follow the example of cigarettes and insist pizza is sold in plain packaging displaying a picture of the grotesque effects of consuming the product. In this case perhaps a picture of a big fat oaf in a dirty tee-shirt and underpants on a burst sofa surrounded by empty pizza boxes with Jeremy Kyle on the TV. So with all this ubercare and love being extended to the logically challenged food shopper how come merry riot is being led in what must be the biggest mislabeling and misselling scam that has hit the streets since Bernie Madoff teamed up with the Wolf of Wall Street to set up a PPI scheme on Libor fixing for student loans? Namely - Farm Shops.

Many moons ago farmers started, quite rightly, to complain about the effective enslavery they were suffering at the hands of the oligopolic supermarkets. The large buyers were crushing the prices they paid through contractual straightjacketing whilst at the same time raising their own prices to effect huge margins. Something had to be done and so we naturally waited for what happens in any other market with large margins to occur- competitors step in to undercut that margin. In this case who is best placed to step in? Why the farmers themselves. It was not long before the UK saw every village high-street planning its own farmers market and any roadside farm with a spare barn set up a farm shop. Here came the revolution at last so off we set to support our local embattled farmers, but no! Something must be wrong? Has the farmer not had enough practice with the pricing gun? For these prices must be wrong! Surely those canny farmers must have passed economics 1.0.1 to get this far? Because surely the simple requirement to undercut your competitors is that your prices are LESS than your competitors? Not twice as much.

Seriously Mr. Farmer, if you want my business and you want my respect and you actually want to be free from the yoke of the supermarkets and you want  to make serious money other than by levying a stupidity tax on the gullible middle classes then just simply charge LESS than your competition. It's simple really and before you mention supermarket buying power and lower costs let me point something out to you. You are the producer. You can get no lower cost of distribution than already having it in your shed. So if you don't want me to tip off all those PPI cold calling misselling legal companies then act now. If the UK FCA can threaten to backdate misselling actions on pension annuity companies all the way back to when Noah bought an annuity that didn't pay out past his 600th birthday as he thought it would, then a simple case of 3 times the going rate for misshapen parsnips should be a snip.

Having dealt with the mispricing scandal let's move on to the mislabelling scandal. The use of the word "Artisan". If there was such an august body, as there should be, as the National Society of Artisans (regulated by the FCA, SEC and the Historical Society with oversight from English Heritage and the National Trust) they would by now have trampled underfoot and bathed in the blood of the "artisan" infidel.

There was an era when coffee came black or white. We coped when that all changed, but then came loaves of bread. We have just about learned to cope with the myriad of additional strange grain ingredients but just when we have and learned to pay the doubled price for the addition of a thimble of a central american cereal of unpronouncable name, they go and stick the word "Artisan" in front of it and double the price again.Is the addition of the word "artisan" really justification for selling the same article in a  misshapen form for twice the price? No it isn't.The term "Artisan" originally referred to a craftsman who made items or decorations, but the term has now been bent to mean anyone who makes anything by hand. By which frame of reference this blog is now artisanal. Note an artisanal blog not artisan blog, otherwise it would be a blog for an artisan, not made by one.

Yet I passed three different establishments today all proclaiming "artisan bread" on their signs. Without a national regulatory authority of artisanship this just means that someone made it. It could have been a kid and it's actually Play-doe or it could have been Raymond Blanc. So the word artisan is completely and totally redundant other than in price, where the purchaser is expected to have his "fxxk me that's expensive" naturally explained away with a "well it's artisan innit". We surely can't be far off the McArtisan burger at which point the counter resets and a new word has to be found as complete debasement has been reached.

Now back to the farm shops. Guess which word  they are already swiftly prefixing with black marker pen onto the labels of  their already uncompetitive produce?  These boys are smart if not artisanal, though a hyphen after the "s" in that word might fix it. So good luck at your local farm shop.


I have spotted this sign locally indicating that even our birdlife is being targeted by the artisanal loafers.


Hotairmail said...

This has long been a sore point with me. But then I've been in the sticks longer and have long had the farmer-sympathetic DNA erased from my genetic code.

Your local farmer is typically a money grabbing, miserable, council-sitting property developer.

And to cap it all, our local Farm Shop doesn't even sell stuff from its farm. It sells all sorts of imported foods...but at eye-gouging price mark-ups.

They have taken 'Farm Shop' to literal extremes: "this is a shop on a farm that I have been allowed to build, but you wouldn't have a chance, and I'm going to charge you for the convenience".

Happy Days.

Polemic said...

hotair . well said.

we must meet one day for a pint of bitter and twisted.

Mike said...

LOL! Devil's advocate would argue Polemic that it's capitalistic behavior at it's purest and your bone of contention is not that far from government's position on a host of issues. The main difference being that you vent your disgruntlement on this blob, whereas the gov sticks it's dirty fingers into anything it deems inappropriate behavior.
From my perch you sort of deserve it, when you buy "organic", "artisan", "healthy", or any other euphemism for " rip me off". I sure don't like it, but it's just another MM pinch of Hymalayan Pink Salt added to your bill innit?

Polemic said...

I dont have a grudge with being ripped off if I can avoid it as I can by just not using farm shops, it's the hypocrisy that gets me when they moan about how much supermarkets pay them for their produce!

Oh the old Himalayan Rock Salt. That has indeed become a TMM special product - My Daughter bought me some (at least from Lidl rather than a farm shop) and it had the same affect on me as Kryptonite.