Don’t let Tesco kill it (Alan Robertson)

The news last week that Shetland Farm Dairies is facing an uncertain future is grave news indeed. It is surprising at a time when local food is so popular and with the patriotic nature of Shetlanders that the local dairy is not doing a roaring trade.

What is not surprising is that Tesco is implicated in the problems that the dairy is experiencing. Having already been connected to the demise of two local retailers (Clive’s and World Tastes), Tesco is now also jepordising local food production which is very alarming.

Local food production is a key element for the future sustainability of Shetland’s economy and community, it should be supported at all costs.

Buying local food boosts the local economy by retaining money locally for longer, research has shown that every £1 spent locally is worth £1.76 to the local economy but every £1 spent on imported goods or services is worth 36p, a difference of 400 per cent.

Local businesses give Shetland a unique identity and provide the community with a sense of ownership and belonging which does not come from a faceless multi-national corporation.

The problems at the dairy highlight the issues that arise when an aggressive business model is imposed on a small local economy, local businesses struggle to compete as they don’t have the economies of scale and can’t afford to sell loss leaders.

As sales in local shops decline more money is removed from the local economy and a downward spiral begins, local businesses close and choice is reduced, the large shops monopolise on the locals’ misfortune.

Large supermarkets often claim to give customers greater choice but if the dairy was to cease trading then we would have no choice but to buy imported milk. The same was true when Clive’s and World Tastes closed – our choice has been reduced.

Shetland produces high-quality food for local consumption including milk, meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, cheese, cakes, biscuits, sweeties, pies, jam and chutney. These products cannot be bettered.

Don’t let Tesco be the death of our vibrant local food scene – buy local to improve our local economy, create jobs and support our local food producers.

By the way I have no connection to Shetland Farm Dairies other than the butter on my toast and the milk on my cereal.

Alan Robertson


Add Your Comment
  • Martyn Fisher

    • July 19th, 2012 8:57

    Well said Mr Robertson.

  • Jay

    • July 19th, 2012 9:30

    I think that if Shetland Farm Dairies would bring their prices down a little more people would buy their products. Just now with this recession many families are struggling with huge increases in many food (including dairy) products. As a parent and I am sure many like me, when doing the weekly shopping you are trying to keep the costs down, so you opt for the cheapest product. Tesco in today’s recession is a lifesaver, because of their cheap prices. Its healthy competition, and the way it should be.
    Suppliers of Shetland products will have to ‘start getting real’, by lowering their prices, with more focus on the good hard working people & their families of Shetland, and not just the tourism business.

  • Ernie Lea

    • July 19th, 2012 12:23

    Tesco will ruin the shopping in Shetland.Take a look at the High Streets in every city in the British Isles.All empty and most boarded up.
    It is a pity that company was established.
    It wouldn’t be so bad if they were fair in their trading but is all greed,greed,greed.
    The bottom line has to be better than the last and sod everyone else.
    Tesco isn’t the only supermarket being super greedy,they are all at it for their shareholders.

    If you are reading this TESCO then come on and be fair to the local producers.
    Perhaps you Shetland people can boycott Tesco for a time.

  • veronica bellotti

    • July 19th, 2012 14:05

    Well said Mr Robertson,its the same here in Republic Of Ireland

  • B Twigley

    • July 19th, 2012 21:33

    Ernie, I think you may need to look a little closer next time you are in tesco. I think you may just find out that Shetland Farm Dairies milk costs double what other milk costs and yet still is a top seller. The dairy is very greedy and they want to make as much money as they can while producers supplying Robert Wisemans make nothing at all in some cases. SFD have had ample opportunities from Tesco themselves to streamline their production, and even ship their products south, like what they did with Wildwaters salmon (who are now in 100s of Tesco stores and doing very well). But the Dairy was having none of it, instead asked them to stop stocking all other types of milk. Do you like paying £1.60 for a bottle of milk just because some bloke from up the road made it, or 70p having had to travel a lot further? Get real!

  • Tom Richardson

    • July 20th, 2012 8:42

    I moved from Shetland to Beccles last year. Beccles amazes me in that it has three supermarkets and speaking to small business owners they feel that tesco and Morrisons and the coop have helped small businesses by attracting more folk to beccles, which due to geography wont really do for Shetland. However the second thing said is they exist because they say local people choose to pay higher prices because they want to support local business. Tesco is not forcing people to buy their goods, cheap goods do lure, but any blame really stands at how individuals choose to spend their money. Not on those willing to take it

  • Kathy Greaves

    • July 20th, 2012 9:21

    Most people would agree that it makes sense to buy locally, certainly perishable consumables, which would thereby reduce our carbon footprint and help the local economy. We would all benefit from eating fresher food, but when we see half a neep costing £1.12 in a rural shop and Tesco charging 70p for the same type, size and freshness, people cannot be blamed for taking the cheaper option.

    It is time that our council took another look at backing their own allotment ‘initiative’ with real support, advice, and, yes, some finance.

    Kathy Greaves

  • Douglas Young

    • July 25th, 2012 8:13

    It has nothing to do with Tesco; the consumer can choose which product to buy; the Diary, already having the superior product on the shelf, needs to improve it’s marketing by telling us why we should buy it, the packaging should be solid white, with the Shetland Flag and clearly marked as a superior, locally produced product. The label should not be some abstract landscape which has nothing to do with the product. The only reason I don’t buy the butter is due to it being in a round, plastic tub and not a half pound bar. The Facebook page has shown them they have the customers, now it is up to them, if they can’t compete on price then it must be on quality, no air miles, good animal husbandry, ANYTHING! But sell, sell, sell.

  • Ian McCormack

    • July 25th, 2012 18:03

    I’ve struggled with this whole debate, because on one hand I 100% agree that we have to support local businesses, which my wife and I do when we can afford too, but on the other hand, there are reasons we rarely buy Shetland milk.
    The main reason is the price. Why should those who cant afford much, pay £1.56 in Tesco’s for Shetland milk for a 2L bottle, when a 2.27L bottle of Tesco’s milk is only £1. That’s a 56% increase on the same product. We have 3 kids, who go through a lot of milk, we buy on average 5 x 2L cartons of milk a week, that £5 for the Tesco’s milk and £7.80 if we buy Local milk. We could buy more bread or fruit for the £2.80 difference, which over the course of a year is an extra £145.60. I’m sorry, but some people just don’t have that to spend. For me that is 1 and a half weeks worth of shopping I would be spending extra just to say I bought local. In these times of recession that’s irresponsible. BUT if you have the money to spend, go for it.

    Another reason is the Taste. Im sorry but Shetland milk does not keep very well and goes off quickly, even when it has been frozen, it goes sour VERY fast. It also does not taste that great, even when it isn’t going off, and I can only think that has to be a problem with processing. Their BUTTER however, tastes brilliant!!!! Try it!!

    My concern is primarily for the local dairy farmers tho, and this is where I have a conflict of interest. My wife has family who are dairy farmers in Shetland, and it sickens us when we hear about the amount of milk that is poured down the drain. They need a good price for their milk from both the local dairy AND both of Shetlands supermarkets.

    I think one solution would be to see the bigger supermarkets such as Tesco’s and the Coop, buy direct from the farms and pay the local processors to process the milk, and sell it for about a £1.20 ish in the supermarkets. I would buy it to support the local farmers, even tho I don’t really like it. Surely the larger supermarkets can “soak up” the costs of such a venture, where as a local business would never be able to do this, a national business would be able to do this, and in the process (excuse the pun) would boost local economy!!!!

    For those who like the “sooth is rubbish” argument. Can I remind you that there are many businesses up here that equally need your support, from bakery’s to clothes shops. Many of us in Shetland use eBay or amazon, or wait till we go on holidays to use “Sooth” shops to buy clothes, camera’s, electrical goods etc. Please remember that the next time you go on holiday.
    I dont believe Tesco’s is responsible for the dairy problems, a lot of people choose to shop there. They just provide what you the consumer wants and needs.

    I sincerely hope tho that the problems between farmers and dairy can be sorted out tho.


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