Lost opportunities for ethical shoppers

From The Guardian Letters www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jul/08/fairtrade-products-organic-food  (8 July, p.29)

No, no, no. I cannot stand seeing any more of these pieces of “research” showing that people are switching away from organic, Fairtrade et al, to the cheap luxuries of Lidl (Shoppers are turning away from ethical food, says poll, 6 July). We are not being given the opportunity to choose whether to switch – what has happened is that the major retailers, for whom organic was a commercial cause worth chasing for most of the past 10 years, decided in the wake of Lehman Brothers’ collapse last year (most people talk about that week as being the turning point) to eliminate much of the “expensive” choice on their shelves. No longer could you walk into the multiple retailers and take your pick of organic goodies, because they were no longer there!

Product ranges were halved, shelf space was slashed, and if it’s not there you can’t buy it, so you might expect consumption to fall. It will continue to do so while we are faced with lower-welfare pork and poultry, imported overfed fruit and veg, and all the rest of the short-term opportunistic stuff that we are encouraged to fill our trolleys with. Of course, people do choose to shop elsewhere, in increasing numbers, to allow themselves a proper choice, but since the majority of food is sold by the multiples, what happens in their stores is what research is based on. If it’s not there, you can’t buy it. It is available, it’s well grown and most of the time it’s full of the benefits that people recognise – but too often, not in a supermarket near you.

Our own pub, in the midst of our own organic farm, has almost doubled its organic food sales since the Lehman Brothers week. People’s values are not that easily squashed.
Tim Finney 
Managing director, Eastbrook Farm & The Royal Oak, Bishopstone, Swindon