In a food chain dominated by centralisation, the wholesale market must be preserved

Food – Extending Localisation  2010. 

Extract: Wholesale markets, p14

Wholesale markets provide a useful potential structure for increasing the proportion of food entering the city both from local producers and via smaller independent businesses, thus potentially ticking several localisation boxes. Localise West Midlands conducted a feasibility study as part of the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative (PSFPI) into whether the Birmingham wholesale markets could become a hub for public procurement (primarily of fruit and vegetables) in order to facilitate this . . .

Pressures such as city centre land value and inadequate wholesaler facilities have led to a proposal to move them to a site in Witton. The new site might be a successful distribution hub location, potentially reducing congestion and freight mileage, but the impacts on the important food access role of the retail markets, where food is brought across from the wholesale markets on pallets; must be considered as a priority: the markets’ food access role could be reduced by the need to truck produce in from a couple of miles away. Retail market stallholders are unconvinced that sufficient attention has been paid to this issue. 

Wholesale markets remain too significant a link in any town or city’s sustainable food supply chain to ignore: as a critical mass of independent wholesalers they have the capacity to deal with the efficiencies of the small scale both in terms of taking produce from small scale suppliers, and supplying into smaller scale customers such as the conurbation’s thriving independent supermarket sector. 

In a UK-wide food chain environment that is dominated by both supermarket and public sector centralisation, this structure needs preserving. The more detailed findings of our feasibility study have been integrated into our recommendations. 

Read the whole report here.

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Localise West Midlands’ 2009 report: Birmingham Wholesale Markets  – a local food hub for public procurement? was commissioned by the Government Office of the West Midlands.