Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rooting out the cause of empty food shelves

80% of all supermarket supplies of carrots now come from just 10 major packers in East Anglia, Scotland and the north of England. At this time of year, more than half the carrots the UK eats have to make their way from north-east Scotland to centralised distribution depots and back out again to stores.

UK's milk supply has become very concentrated too: some 60% of our fresh milk has to travel from farms around the country to six locations for processing before being trucked back hundreds of miles up and down motorways to customers.Forty years ago milk was processed closer to where it was produced and delivered back to the same area. The drive to make industry logistics as economically efficient as possible has removed any slack."There are no spare vehicles any more. If the driving speeds are reduced by just 10mph on a nine-hour shift because of snow, they just can't get round the whole collection; the whole route is affected," Huw Bowles, director of the organic co-operative OMSCO explained.

Sir Don Curry, formerly the government's top adviser on ­sustainable farming and now the chair of the Better Regulation Executive also explained that "Most retailers have adopted a just-in-time supply chain, so there is not a lot of slack," he said. "They allow for some variation, but three to four weeks of difficult weather, and suddenly supplies are under threat. That ought to be an early warning for government and the industry. Disruptions to supply are a serious risk and they need to build a cushion."

Socialism will still need to concern itself with the efficient allocation of resources . Decentralized production entails a self-regulating system of stock control. Stocks of goods held at distribution points would be monitored, their rate of depletion providing vital information about the future demand for such goods, information which will be conveyed to the units producing these goods. The units would in turn draw upon the relevant factors of production and the depletion of these would activate yet other production units further back along the production chain. There would thus be a marked degree of automaticity in the way the system operated. The maintenance of surplus stocks would provide a buffer against unforeseen fluctuations in supply as we have recently witnessed in the recent adverse wintry wether conditions .It must be born in mind in the first place that the systematic overproduction of goods – i.e. a buffer stock - provides for a period of re-adjustment.

In a particular situation of actual physical shortage perhaps resulting from crop failure we can assume that the shortage can be tackled by some system of direct rationing such as prioritising indviduals needs by vulnerability , and if there is no call for that criteria , by lottery , or first come first served.

In socialism business parks and office blocks could be bulldozed to make way for small-holdings and allotments.Food production will become more localised.There would no longer be any need for a community to import agriculture produce from thousands of miles away when it can be grown nearby.

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