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.