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UK self-sufficiency and localisation of food supply chains from British Farms should now be the Government priority. Not vanity-led trade deals that undermine them

Globalisation as we knew it before the age of Lockdowns is over. We may not feel it, understand it or in most cases even see it. But the World has been changed by the chain reaction that was set in motion by the COVID Pandemic.

Daylight is now beginning to shine upon all the hidden, self-serving and myopic powers that influence our way of life. They are coming together in a concert of chaos with COVID conducting the orchestra – right at the fore.

It may sound dramatic. But the subjectivity and focus we have on everything beyond our own lives and the bubbles we unwittingly live in make it easy for us to ignore how things really are at the objective level. We are and have been living through significant National and World events that have consequences neither we, but even more importantly our politicians, can or now will avoid.

Loss of the realism that a genuine overview provides leaves us out of touch with the reality of what is happening. We take for granted that daily life will always go on as it has and that everything continues in the same way.

Yet the assumption that an encyclopaedic range of foods and products will always meet us when we walk through the supermarket doors or click online is a storybook waiting for a bad ending. And that ending is now almost certain to emerge.

Whilst the Government, media and the establishment they serve tell us that everything will return to the pre-COVID ‘normal’, concocted narratives cannot change nor head off the impact and consequences of the decisions they made, the money they created then spent, and the stories they have told to control people during a pandemic.  

The change is already underway. We can already see it in the questions over home working and many revaluating where they wish to live. Change will touch everything, and this will include even the most basic parts of life, including the clothes we wear and the food that we eat.

We simply don’t need all the things that we buy, eat or drink, and many of us already know and understand this. Whilst it may sound moralistic to say so, it is certainly no coincidence that as a population we are becoming so unhealthy when we are happy sleepwalking through life in the way that we do.

The good, wholesome, locally and ethically produced foods that we genuinely need to live and feed ourselves would not be expensive if we prioritised production using the most localised supply chains possible. It could mean the ingredients of the meals we eat have not travelled outside of our own County boundaries or been carried much further on their journey from farm to fork.

Some may snort at the mere suggestion of returning to a world where butchers, bakers and every kind of traditional village shop or business sell you the produce and goods that have come to them for preparation from local farms and producers.

But this is the way that the world we know will go if it is again to begin making any kind of sense, and we do not need the Government or ambitious Ministers attempting to open up trade flow to Countries that will undercut our own farmers and producers. Indeed, the Countries that Trade Ministers are now talking to should be actively and demonstratively encouraged to develop their own enhanced forms of productivity as we all work towards the level of national and localised self-sufficiency that the post-COVID World and the collapse of global Supply chains will soon demand.

In the simplest terms, the rise and threat of what has been called the ‘Indian variant’ of COVID demonstrates some of the starkest lessons of how this virus works. The ZERO COVID solution that this Government has tied itself to will at some point have to be flipped to become one that we learn to live with it and treat it the same as we do the Flu.

Whether we continue going forward under the premise that COVID control is the only priority or change and accept that there are other ways to live, we can no longer allow or encourage the mass movement of people or encourage unnecessary international supply chains just for the sake of making profit in any way.

Borders will literally have to become borders once again. No matter how much we might we deserve that foreign holiday, we are no longer living in a world where there will continue to be one rule for ‘wealthy’ countries and another for all those that the ignorant and greedy thumb their noses at and call poor.

Viruses and the impacts of ill-considered human behaviour do not recognise boundaries. They have consequences for us all.

For better or worse, COVID is a virus that is here to stay. Global eradication is not possible with the political mindset that the world currently has, and we will soon have no option but to learn and act upon the realities that the spread of a respiratory disease through an interconnected version of the World presents.

Meanwhile, the decision making and behaviours of politicians, banks ad big business as they have struggled to maintain control during the Covid Pandemic has led them to supercharge the growth of the many problems that greed and profiteering have created.

Going local, real localism and putting our communities at the forefront of everything we build our lives around will now become key to addressing the change that events will create and to become happy and content in ways that we have culturally long since forgot.

Farmers, producers and those who run and maintain very local services and cottage industry businesses are going to be key. Allowing any foreign country to undercut local production of any kind – no matter our historic ties – will quickly become one of the greatest acts of economic self-harm in the post-COVID world.

This is not about having a downer on Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA or any Country with which we might have once found it desirable to extend trade with. All Countries across the World are going to have to face up to the realities of the step away from globalisation to closed borders and what this really means for prioritising local production too.

Self-sufficiency for food and essential goods must become both a National and Government priority for the UK. Within this, we must look to promote and encourage everyone to shop and focus what they do and the lives they live locally in pretty much the complete opposite way that globalisation and the greed that underpins it has done.

Government must guide and support the development of truly local cooperatives. Legislators must embrace and utilise the freedom we have following our unshackling from the EU to legislate in ways that mean it is both practical and cost effective for every service that businesses require to produce and manufacture locally will not only exist but will thrive in such ways that lead to local products and services being made available to everyone at prices even the poorest in society can afford.

Local Enterprise Partnerships or alternative bodies like them should be used to join up the dots and encourage this growth locally.

Instead of encouraging agriculture and food production to become ever more focused on ‘cost effective’ production that means they increasingly only become viable with the economies of scale and size, our legislators must look at regulating and restricting all of the malign influences that take money out of the supply chain, thereby increasing end-user cost. They are currently adding no value, as part of an equation that increasingly leaves heathy food being a luxury that only the financially wealthy can afford.

Farm shops, farmers markets and the systems of local production that can and must feed into them must be the direction of travel. We must reject the reliance upon retail giants and a system where shareholders and financial speculators make ridiculous sums of money after the companies they ‘own’ can appear to move goods around the planet more cheaply than our own producers can make them. The practice where supermarket buyers crush any farmers ability to both supply them and remain profitable must come to its end.

British Farmers are some of the most innovative and entrepreneurial members of society that we have. There is little doubt that if we both embrace and support the role that they can and will willingly then take within a new and diversified platform for UK food growing and production, the true value to us all of the wider rural and agricultural sector and the community that underpins it will come into its own and be good for us all.

The ‘rent’ economy is enslaving us all, creating money for nothing for the ‘asset rich’ and progressively extending poverty to all the ‘paying poor’

December 28, 2017 Leave a comment

download (10)Every day we are hearing and reading stories about wage stagnation, price escalation, homelessness of the kind where young people can’t afford their own place, spiralling personal debt and a whole range of stories which relate to the cost of living. Stories that are repeatedly telling us that maintaining a basic life in the UK is very quickly becoming a luxury that many of us simply cannot or will not be able to afford.

Alone, each tale told can and often is attributed to a range of causes which are nonetheless real, but also overlook a common theme throughout all of these issues. The commonality between them all is the economic concept of ‘rent’. The impact of third parties taking ownership of all or part of a product, the delivery of a service, or some other form of purchase at some point in the process from where it originated to where we use or in consume it in some way.

Rent is of course a term we use in daily life to describe paying to use something which belongs to someone else. The most common usage is that of renting of a house, where instead of there being a simple relationship between an owner occupier and their house or property, the occupant rents the property from the owner, essentially increasing a basic two part relationship into three.

In just this example alone, we can take it one stage further and add a bank or mortgage owner of a buy-to-let property (1) which is rented by the occupant (2) from the owner (3) who borrows the money and pays interest to the bank (4), which may itself have borrowed that money from another bank (5).

Whilst we would normally think of just the transaction between the occupier and the property owner as being ‘rent’, in economic terms, any additional party taking something from an overall transaction or supply chain between its origin and use who isn’t essential to the core process is receiving rent of some kind. They in turn may split their role between themselves and others, each adding their own profit as they do every time it happens. Ultimately each additional participant in the chain raises the price of whatever we as users or consumers will be expected to pay.

Sometimes, a number of stages appear necessary. For instance the food we eat might have to be grown by a farmer (1), which is bought by a manufacturer (2) who pays a haulier (3) to transport it to where they will process it. The manufacturer then sells the prepared food to a wholesaler(4) and pays another haulier (5) to deliver it to their warehouse. The wholesaler then sells it to a supermarket (6) and pays another haulier (7) to take it to their distribution centre. The supermarket then pays another haulier (8) to deliver the product to its store, where it sells the finished product to us (9). Do believe me when I say that the chains are usually much more convoluted than that!

Of course, we are all guilty of falling into the trap of forgetting how complex the process is which brings us our food and most of the items that we consume or the services we buy, because for us the process seems to be so very easy. But look closer and we will soon see that even a supply chain of this size may involve unnecessary parts and people taking ‘rent’.

So what does this all this talk of rent really have to do with the cost of living?

The real problem with the provision of goods and services is that the UK operates within what is called a ‘free market’ environment, which it has been since at least the time of the Thatcher Government (1979-90). Within this free market, reduced levels of regulation and influence from the government – who we expect to guard and protect our best interests – provides the opportunity for additional 3rd parties and in fact many more of them to involve or add themselves to the chain of many of our daily transactions. By doing so, they can make significant profits from what in some cases will be as simple for them as a click to buy and another to sell.

Whether it is food, clothing, fuel and oil, transport, communications, borrowing money, or just about anything we can imagine that we can buy, there are now speculators buying and selling products and services, sub contracting responsibilities to others, all of them taking additional profit by taking ‘rent’ which there is no practical reason for anyone needing to pay. They indirectly inflate the prices we pay for the end product, increasingly making those things which should really be quite affordable, simply too expensive for us to buy.

These speculators do this because they can. There are no real rules to stop them, and they are making as much money as they can without any consideration for the impact of their actions on the end users – that’s us. And they have little concern that they will have to stop doing so, because the banks simply continue to lend money to the people who have been forced by this process to borrow – if indeed possible – in order to survive.

Think about what really caused the 2007-08 Financial Crisis, which was the sale, resale and resale again of financial products or debts which became so complex, even the financiers themselves didn’t really know what they were buying and selling on.

Bankers were making massive amounts of money – all because nobody was monitoring exactly what they were doing, whilst their own ‘success’ blinded them to how value was being created by lending to people at one end of this elaborate chain who simply didn’t have the ability to pay back what they had been lent.

The Bankers didn’t care before it happened and they don’t care now. They are still not regulated in the way that they should be, and were actually saved from going under in 2008 by the Labour Government at the time by giving them Billions of Pounds of money in bailouts and rescue funds that the Government itself borrowed, and which we are still paying for through the accumulation of public debt.

These are people, banks and companies who are quite literally making money for nothing, and its all at our expense.

The ‘rent’ economy has been evolving as the reality in which we live for many years now. But it is only as more and more products and services have come under the control of those with the money and unrestricted influence to speculate, whether it has been through privatisation, the development of near monopolies or money simply being placed within unscrupulous hands, that the real impact of ‘farming everything for profit’ has began to become fully clear.

 

 

 

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