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GLOBAL FOOD HARD TO SWALLOW

25-04-2007

The loss of HP Sauce production from Birmingham highlighted how vulnerable Britain's food supply is to international commerce. Barbara Panvel says it's time we started eating local.

HP Sauce

Questions are being asked about the ‘great trade swap’ of food and goods.

In Poland, Wieslaw Rozlucki said: “When I see basic products imported from abroad I think this is stupid. In a restaurant if I see foreign mineral water I don’t like this because we have good mineral water in Poland”

The British Potato Council’s survey found that 85% of people responding said they would prefer to buy British and 86% wanted to see locally grown potatoes on supermarket shelves.

In Australia John Smith is selling Ozemite - locally produced and owned - instead of imported Vegemite, made by a US company.

He is concerned that the country, which has a large current account deficit, is living beyond its means. “If we’re not careful, we will completely lose control of our destiny.”

His business has created hundreds of jobs in hard-hit rural areas.

“We need more home-grown businesses. Overseas companies provide mass employment but small businesses provide secure employment. I know which I prefer.” Ian Goodwillie, Teesside

Birmingham's Dr Carl Chinn says: “Obviously, everyone has a choice to make - and cost and quality come into the equation, but all things being equal I would encourage people to buy local products. I think it essential for manufacturing that people buy British.”

Martin Partington in Cumbria pleads “Whether you are a farmer or work for the Ministry, show some loyalty for local firms and insist that your supplies are bought in the county”

John Cormack from Woodham Ferrers wrote to the British Medical Association saying “we doctors should support the British motor industry”.

Silversmith Tony McCarthy of the Jewellery Quarter promoted a hallmark to authenticate precious metal goods made in Britain.

Keynes, a famous economist, said:

We do not wish to be at the mercy of world forces . . .We wish to be our own masters and to be as free as we can make ourselves . . . Ideas, knowledge, science, hospitality, travel - these are things which of their nature should be international. But let goods be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible, and, above all, let finance be primarily national . . .

Why then have rules been adopted which make it illegal for public bodies to buy the food, goods and services produced in the country, unless they are the cheapest - thereby weakening the food, goods and service providers?

The rules stem from the World Trade Organisation, reinforced by the International Monetary Fund and spread throughout the world by the well-placed partners of McKinsey, global consultants who operate in all but the poorest counties and are well-represented in our governing circles - the power behind the throne?

They advocate privatisation, nuclear power, outsourcing, the growing of GM crops and the worldwide spread of large supermarket chains. As Tony Benn wrote a few years ago:

None of the representatives of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO is elected. Who elects the secretary general of NATO and the director general of the WTO? Our political democracy has been decapitated in the interest of worship of money

Against these powerful giant organisations stand visionary individuals like Bruce Crowther, the Garstang vet who worked tenaciously for years to set up Fair Trade and now is promoting a Fair Deal for UK farmers, Helena Norberg-Hodge who introduced farmers’ markets and set the local food movement rolling and ‘Mr Localisation’, Colin Hines, who works for beneficial world trade structures at local and European level .

Only the small political parties: Plaid Cymru, Mebyon Kernow, the Green Party and the Scottish National Party reject this socially and environmentally damaging global trade system - but even if they came to power, would they be able to resist the power of such organisations?

If oil became scarcer or more expensive only essential trade could continue. After its financial crisis the Russian economy boomed because people could not afford to buy imported goods and domestic production was rapidly stepped up.

Will some sort of crisis be needed before we regain the ability to meet our own need for food, goods, services - and meaningful employment?

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