Following Professor Tim Lang’s support for wholesale markets we summarise Chloe Ryan’s FPJ article:

Before supermarkets became the dominant force in food and drink, wholesale markets were the main route to market for most growers. When supermarkets started to gain momentum in the 1960s, retailers cut wholesalers out of the chain and started to deal directly with the grower base, which was tempted by fixed prices over the daily fluctuations of the open market. This still holds true for many today, but trends show that we may be at the start of turning a full circle.

Complaints by supermarket suppliers about bullying tactics are not new, but what about markets? Are growers treated any better? “More growers are coming to the market now because they are fed up with the supermarkets telling them how much money they can make,” says Tim Williams, business manager at New Spitalfields. “A lot of the traders work on commission, so they will take a percentage of what they sell it for. They will agree a bottom price with the grower and they will normally charge eight to 10% commission, and then there is usually a handling charge per box or per packet, usually about 5p. Then they will be paid in either 14 or 28 days.”

For those disillusioned with the multiples . . . wholesale markets up and down the country, are a valuable route to market. In 2011, the value of goods delivered wholesale to the foodservice industry was £6.4 billion, according to IGD. And, some in the industry claim, this path is becoming increasingly attractive to growers, because of prompt payments of usually 14 or 28 days and the fact there are hundreds of market traders, rather than the handful of retail customers.


Some products such as potatoes, onions and root vegetables are well catered for already, and there is little demand for new suppliers. However, other produce such as English garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers and salad crops are in short supply.

Williams said that in the past, markets were often seen as a place to send lower quality produce; “This is no longer the case. Foodservice has got to be good quality, grade one. I think that is what surprises the farmers most when they come to the market, how good the quality is.”

Continuity of product is important – the grower needs to be big enough to grow for the whole season but smaller growers can get round that by setting up small co-operatives.


So how can growers get into this market? It can be as simple as going down to your local wholesale market and asking the traders what they want, says Zeenat Anjari, business development manager at London’s New Covent Garden Market. Until the scheme’s end this week, growers have been able to take advantage of having a business development manager, who introduced growers to wholesalers, at each of the London wholesale markets. For growers interested in diversifying their customer base, the wholesale markets could be the answer.