23 May 2016: London borough installs solar panels over marketplace

The London borough of Hounslow has installed 6000 solar panels over the rooftop of Western International wholesale market – it is the biggest solar scheme by any local authority – and has the added advantage of storing energy in batteries on-site.

You can read more – and see a photograph – here


6 December 2015 – training US small farmers to up-scale

Civil Eats has an interesting article, written by Kristine Wong, on a US training programme run by  Family Farmed . It aims to help small farmers break into larger wholesale markets. The training revolves around US food safety certification, such as Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices and is supported by a manual called ‘Wholesale Success’.  The struggle to meet exacting food safety and hygiene requirements by small farmers and producers also applies in Europe, and this seems like a worthwhile initiative that could be worth a look.

You can read the article and find out more here: http://civileats.com/2015/12/03/training-farmers-to-be-better-business-people/

2 May 2015 – The Final Mile: Food systems of New York

The Final Mile: Food Systems of New York is a new initiative by OpenHouse and is a year-long series of public programs,  intended to shed light on New York City’s dynamic and multi-layered food economy. The series of tours and events aim to help New Yorkers  better understand how food shapes the city in critical ways that all too often go unnoticed.

There is a good introduction on the blog which talks about how  ‘every plate of food that we eat represents a vast network of interconnected spaces, large and small, that facilitated the flow and preparation of the ingredients of that meal‘. It provides some staggering statistics about the city, including 24,000 restaurants, 5,500 supermarkets, groceries and convenience stores; 1,730 food wholesalers and 120 farmers’ markets.

The city’s largest produce market (Hunts Point) handles 210 million packages of fresh fruit and vegetables each year and the fish market (New Fulton) sells millions of seafood daily and annual sales exceed one billion dollars.

Why the Final Mile? This is what the blog says:

The final mile is a phrase borrowed from the telecommunications industry to describe the challenges of distributing goods and services—in this case, food—from a central hub to multiple end-users. It is commonly understood as the most problematic and expensive leg of any supply chain; whether literal or metaphorical, the last “mile” is the most difficult because it is where the system makes its final transition from the large scale to the finely grained. The average journey for food sold in New York City is 1,500 miles, because it is actually easier to ship ten tons of produce around the world than it is to get a banana from the warehouse to the bodega shelf.

You can read more about it here

18 January 2015 – the future of food markets and the inflating shopping list

BBC radio 4 has broadcast two good programmes today – The Future of Food Markets on the Food Programme that you can listen to here and The Inflating Shopping Basket – you can listen to here. The Future of Food Markets has pieces on the new Markthal in Rotterdam, featured in recent posts on this blog, and new developments at London’s Covent Garden wholesale market and Leicester’s vibrant traditional market. The programme has interesting reflections on the changing, but pivotal role of food markets as food provisioning systems adapt and innovate. The second programme on The Inflating Shopping Basket is a fascinating piece on how changing food shopping habits and trends can be traced through the annual analysis of the Consumer Price Index. It rings a lot of bells about changing food choices from post second world war to what (and where) people are buying today. It put me in mind of something written by John Thompson in 2010 – Milk, Eggs, Arugula, Identity – about the ‘new’ everyday. If you are interested, you can read it here

26 October 2014 – thoughts on the food security debate

Thomas Reardon and C.Peter Timmer have written an in-depth and thought-provoking article about transformation in the Asian agrifood economy. You really need to read this in full but to give you a flavour, they suggest that there are five inter-linked transformations of the agrifood system in Asia (also advancing in varying degrees throughout Latin America and Africa); namely, 1) urbanization; (2) diet change; (3) agrifood system transformation; (4) rural factor market transformation; (5) intensification of farm technology (the agricultural transformation). They argue that it is crucial to understand how these five issues are interlinked in this ‘circuit’ of very rapid development if we are ever to understand food security, concluding ‘it is important to move the food security debate out of its silos—rural development and food security, food supply chains/ agri-business and food security, urbanization and rural development. In the modern world these are bundled and interconnected. The food security debate should be too’.
You can read the full article in Global Food Security 3 (2014) 108–117.

9 September 2014 – EU Russian trade ban threatens Croatian mandarin producers

The World Union of Wholesale Markets (WUWM) has an article on how the EU ban on trade with Russia is threatening the livelihoods of Croatian mandarin producers. The mandarin is the most important export fruit for Croatia and with a bumper harvest due to start on 20 September, Zoran Krsnik, Chair of the CEI Wholesale Market Foundation, talks about how producers are looking for alternative markets. You can read more on the WUWM website.

8 July 2014 – plans for redevelopment Smithfield Market London refused

You may remember my entry of 28 December 2013 in this blog which discussed the threat to the local area in East London posed by plans to redevelop part of Smithfield wholesale market. Today (8 July 2014) government ministers have agreed with the planning inspectors’ recommendation to turn this application down. As I reported in my earlier blog, the writer  Alan Bennett correctly mused:

21 July: Now find myself enrolled in the campaign to save some of Smithfield Market from developers, the culprits the planning committee of the Corporation of London. Who are these people? Where do they live that they so blithely sanction the wrecking of yet another corner of London? […] The decision about Smithfield will presumably end up on the desk of the planning minister, Eric Pickles, a native of Bradford. In the 1960s Bradford […] embarked on a programme of wholesale destruction which included their delightful covered market in Kirkgate.

Communities secretary, Eric Pickles has today said that the redevelopment is ‘wholly unacceptable’ – a victory, of sorts. However, the final outcome for the building is, as yet, unresolved.