Back in September 2009 me and my better half, Suzanne Campbell wrote a book; Basketcase, What’s happening Ireland’s Food? It was the product of ten or more years conversation over the dinner table about the realities of food production and farming.
We didn’t want to write a manifesto about the joys of skipping down to the Farmer’s Market with a hemp bag slung over your shoulder. There’s more than enough of those books about. Basketcase was a warts and all examination of who produces our food, how do they do it, who decides what we eat and who profits most from it.
Back then as the recession dug deeper myself and Suzanne had the feeling that while food and farming wouldn’t save us all it was one of the things we did best and we should give it a bit more attention. Export figures have supported that point of view.
Off the back of Basketcase RTÉ commissioned the documentary What’s Ireland Eating? which was repeated on RTE1 last night but you can see it here http://tinyurl.com/6kdww6z on the RTÉ player for the next month.
Looking back at it six months on I keep thinking about the parallels between the food industry and the banking sector. Power is concentrated in the hands of a very small number supermarket owners, they’re businesses are almost totally unregulated, and they are accountable to nobody except in some cases their shareholders. We have ombudsmen and regulators for just about every industry from insurance to electricity. But supermarkets have carte blanche and as the documentary showed they don’t always use that influence for the greater good.
Just two days ago Suzanne unearthed a great example from Denmark of the cynical opportunism of the supermarkets. They used the opportunity presented by the imposition of a “Fat Tax” to gouge an additional 17% out of consumers of things like butter and cheese. Suzanne will probably get around to blogging about it here http://basketcasetheblog.blogspot.com/
In the meantime we are working on What’s Ireland Eating 2? Watch this space because some of the stuff Suzanne has unearthed is scaring even me and I thought I was unshockable by this stage.