Pre- Commercial development , short supply chains, business partnerships and networks.
Food Hubs Feasibility Study
The Vale of Usk is a recognised high quality food tourism destination, while Monmouthshire has the enviable status of food capital of Wales with a wealth of award winning food and drink producers in the Vale of Usk; numerous high profile chefs and Michelin-starred restaurants as well as the renowned Abergavenny Food Festival.
Despite this close association with high quality local food, there is anecdotal evidence that food producers selling direct to the public may find it difficult to compete with supermarkets and that many produce too small a quantity to access these larger markets. In addition, according to figures from DEFRA, farmers receive less than 8% of the added financial value produced in the food chain and increasingly rely on subsidies, a proportion of which could be at risk following the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU). As farm to plate food chains have lengthened over the decades and involved more ‘actors’, more profit has accrued to manufacturers, distributors and retailers with less money being made at the farm gate. Despite these low financial farm gate returns, farmers have at times been under even more financial pressure in the market for commodities such as milk where the return on production costs has been negligible.
The Vale of Usk is predominantly a rural region with a large number of farms and food producers. Hence there exists the potential to bring new food products to market as well as divert some of the raw commodity (meat, milk, vegetables, fruit and possibly grain) away from the mainstream supply chain and/or to the Vale of Usk plate (both public and private, including the domestic). However, many producers are hesitant to trial new products due to the cost of setting up processing facilities and are accustomed, reluctantly in some cases because of the poor profitability, to operating in the mainstream food system. Farmers selling into the mainstream have become ‘price takers’ rather than ‘price makers’ with relatively little power to change the status quo. Linked to this situation is the lack of processing plant and the demise of slaughtering facilities in the Vale of Usk. With a few exceptions, Vale of Usk food, especially meat, producers and most Welsh vintners have their produce processed outside of this immediate area and often out of Wales due to a lack of facilities here.
There is also evidence to suggest that more needs to be done to educate and inform local people of the benefits of locally produced food, including freshness and taste due to shorter distances that food is transported and potential benefits to the local economy with increased job creation. Making more locally produced food available can contribute to improved food resilience in the locality, which could be of growing importance in the context of factors such as Brexit (as we import 27% of our food from the EU), climate change and its impacts on food production in countries from which we import food and, in some cases, increased use of limited resources when food is transported a distance. However, these benefits cannot be realised without more local food becoming available, accessible and affordable.
The aim of the project was to conduct a study into the development of a food hub within The Vale of Usk LAG region. The study was tasked with identifying current provision of food from food hub type approaches and evaluate the different food hub models in the UK and other countries to ascertain the most appropriate solution for the Vale of Usk. It also considered the issues highlighted above, with a view to incorporating viable solutions to these issues where possible, into the most suitable food hub model (if appropriate).
The RDP contribution was 8,000.
Promar International Ltd were appointed to conduct the study which was completed Sept 2017.
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