Friday 12 April 2013

Something To Chew Over

Today we were lucky enough to get our hands on some fresh English asparagus, late this year, but as welcome as ever.  The issue now is how big a helping?  Another one is that the price is going up steadily, year by year, and more than inflation.  So do we keep up our consumption in parallel with past years or do we economise?

An alternative is that rather than buying local produce to seek out the less costly alternatives flown in for very distant parts as part of bulk cargo and then distributed through depots where it is washed and packaged.  However, it is not as good and moreover some comes from soils becoming degraded year by year.

The local produce is from suppliers who operate much closer to the margin and who are vulnerable to any significant adverse variation in their financial situation.  They are not the sort of people who can find credit easily to tide them over.

The computer driven centralised financial management systems used by banks and others are not geared to this kind of operation and are less favourably looked at because the returns and margins demanded by them are often unaffordable by the small independent supplier.

Locally, we now seem to be becoming close to a situation where the number of local and regional suppliers and their network depends on a certain kind of customer with either the time or the resources or the will to make the effort to engage with this kind of retail activity.

For the big supermarket chains around people like us are of little account because we are a minority, variable, possibly ageing and one only just worth while providing stock for.  The evidence for this is on the shelves.  You have to hunt around for the specialist produce and the choice is limited.

At present we cannot be certain what the overall financial situation and its impact will be in the short term.  It is difficult to believe all the spin and chatter about how this or that might grow or this or that monetary wheeze will bring back prosperity.  What is happening at the margins suggests otherwise.

Looking back over decades it seems to be that the reality is that people in the middling and middle to low groups, a very large proportion of the population are facing shrinking real incomes, the inability to save, scant returns on any saving and taxation take that is creeping up in effect and down the income scales.

In terms of employment while there may be more people now in jobs, they are not the same as jobs in the past.  Also the recent employment legislation and the rest means that for any small operator it is madness to offer regular employment in the terms of former decades.  The larger employers now work on a different basis for the most part.

So if for those in work and perhaps at levels of income that are theoretically more comfortable the future is far less secure, a job change is always on the horizon or nearer and how far the money might or will go is very uncertain, what will they be doing?

Food in the past was once one of the major parts of outlay.  For a time it became less and with more choice and availability.  What happens if the food costs go up more than incomes or inflation and both this consumption and other expenditure has to be adjusted?  We are being warned that generally that food prices are set to rise steadily in the future.

The picture above is “The Gleaners” by Millet; Grandma had a copy in her living room.  As a young housewife she had to contend with a family food budget that amounted to around forty percent of the household income.  There wasn’t much left for either luxuries or conspicuous consumption.

Each spear of our asparagus cost close to 20 pence each.  There was a time when I could buy a three course meal in an ABC restaurant in London for less than that.

1 comment:

  1. "What happens if the food costs go up more than incomes or inflation and both this consumption and other expenditure has to be adjusted?"

    Many older people could probably cope by going back to essentials, but I'm not so sure about the takeaway generation.

    And how are takeaways likely to trim their costs? I think we already know the answer to that one.