Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Buying direct seen as supporting sustainability

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Urban New Zealanders surveyed after attending this year’s Open Farms event see buying direct from farmers as the most effective action they can take to support sustainable farming.
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That’s one of the findings of research conducted by the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge and Open Farms, which suggests developing direct relationships between farmers and those who live in urban areas is a potential pathway towards more sustainable farming practices.

Our Land and Water Science leader Dr James Turner says high food prices and the influence of large market players are seen to be preventing sustainable outcomes.

“We also found a standout potential solution from urban respondents – buy food direct from a farmer,” Turner, who is also a senior AgResearch scientist, says.

The research was compiled from a post-event survey of 263 respondents (83% from an urban base), a host farmer survey (25 respondents) and qualitative phone interviews.

Urban and farmer respondents agreed that the biggest barrier to sustainable farming is the purchasing and pricing power of large market players, like supermarkets.

“Respondents generally understood the nuance of food systems issues – like how demand for cheaper food can drive unsustainable practices, or how supermarkets can act as a gatekeeper to market, excluding more sustainable producers through price setting,” he said.

“These findings echo concerns raised by the Australian Commerce Commission and Consumer NZ around the vulnerability of farmers in this type of competitive price market.”

The price of food in NZ is the elephant in the room, with about 60% of those in urban areas surveyed saying food is already too expensive.

“In the past few years, food prices have been rising faster than the rate of general inflation. Statistics NZ’s Food Price Index shows fruit and vegetable prices increased 8.9% last year, while general inflation sat at 1.4%,” he said.

“But we need to recognise that selling direct is currently challenging because our food system is set up for mass production and big retailers.”

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