19 November 1999

Plenty back Welsh plans for big move into food retailing

By Robert Davies

THE Monmouthshire farmers who plan to move into large-scale food retailing are getting enthusiastic support from producers and potential customers.

"What is really exciting is that consumers who contact us are looking for better quality farm assured food and not cheaper food," said Rhys Parry, who started the initiative with Farmers Ferry chairman Terry Bayliss (see News, Oct 22). "The response indicates that it will be possible for farmers to get much more of the wide margin between farm gate and retail prices."

When the 15 farmers involved in the first meeting – where the idea of establishing a national chain of food stores was first discussed – met again this week, they decided not to rush developments. One was delegated the job of checking spare slaughtering capacity at local abattoirs and the costs of contract slaughtering and butchery. Another will investigate whether spare space is available for retailing meat, dairy products and vegetables at existing farmer-owned outlets like supply co-ops.

Agricultural colleges will be asked to let students carry out market surveys quizzing shoppers about their views on buying direct from farms and farmer-owned outlets. "It is tempting to get carried away by the level of interest shown and to start thinking in terms of buying processing plants and renting outlets, but it is very important that we get every stage of development right for the desperate producers who are so keen to get involved."

Terry Bayliss added that he was elated by reaction to the idea, but knew from experience with the ferry project that it would take a lot of time and commitment to turn the dream into reality. "People are already offering to invest but a lot of ground work has to be done before we have a clear picture of what is possible." &#42