Market Failure?: Can the traditional market survive? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents


Memorandum by Leicestershire Food Links Ltd (MARKETS 22)

    — Our company is a not for profit social enterprise which was formed in 1999 following an 18 month project run under "Food Futures".— We aim to promote and increase the amount of local food available in Leicestershire for sale and consumption.

    — As part of this work we run five Farmers Markets in Leicestershire.

    — We have been responsible for the set up of a further four markets which are still running successfully.

1.  TRADITIONAL RETAILS MARKET TODAY

(i)  How has the picture changed over the last 10 years

  Ten years ago Farmers Markets were extremely new and only one pilot project was initiated then. Now as a county Leicestershire boasts 11 operating Farmers Markets. All of these markets with the exception of a twice weekly market at Melton Mowbray are held monthly. There is a demand for more Farmers Markets but we have been experiencing obstacles to these being set up. (See below) The success of Farmers Markets is closely linked with the economy and we are now experiencing a recession which is the first time Farmers Markets have faced this test.

(ii)  Are the number and types of markets in decline?

Although several farmers markets have closed over the last couple of years due to lack of support by the local community, the remainder are well established and have been running for over two years. We have to be aware that there has been a marked increase in the number of large supermarkets and supermarket convenience stores opening extended hours in Leicestershire. This will no doubt impact on the number of consumers regularly using market town centres for their food shopping. Limited transport and parking issues will also have an impact. It is apparent that consumers are interested in new speciality markets ie continental and farmers markets. They visit farmers markets for different reasons. Some seek variety, freshness and quality whilst others see the benefits that local food can make to the welfare of their community.

(iii) and (iv)  Are there obstacles preventing the creation of new markets and are there obstacles hindering the successful business of existing market holders and traders?

Yes to both.

We have encountered difficulties agreeing new markets and trading opportunities without the support of the relevant councils. This is despite the urgent need for an increase in sustainable local food to protect our food security. Several councils and independent charter holders within Leicestershire strictly operate Market Charters with or without Rival Markets Policies which stop new markets evolving. Leicester City charges a rate of £300 per market and Charnwood £225.00. Only one additional market has been agreed within Leicester City's area and this has only been achieved because of the joint support of Blaby District Council (who finance the market) and us. Blaby District council realise the importance of local food in the community but are penalised because of their location (five miles from the city centre). Many other authorities countrywide are willing to forgo fees and waive regulations as they realise the benefits of supporting local food markets to help environment and grow communities. With regard to Charnwood Borough Council's policy we are assessed as a commercial enterprise despite our not for profit status a position we will be challenging. We would urge the committee to look at the possibility of standardising Local Authority policy and the removal of Market Charters to positively support the increased availability of local food.

In the last year we have looked at the costs of setting up six new markets within several Market Charter areas. Most of these markets would have run 10-20 stalls. Regular costs of market management, site rent, advertising etc. would have allowed the markets to run sustainably however with the addition of the Charter fees charged the markets became financially unviable and none has been set up. One such market would be held monthly at Leicester University where they are eager to promote local food to the students and encourage engagement with the local community. They see it as a vital part of their Green awareness and their strategy to reduce carbon footprint.

  If Farmers Markets in Leicestershire continue to be restricted it will limit the opportunities for local producers to trade and grow. We currently operate a waiting list on several of our markets. Equally our markets encourage new producers to enter the market place to sell their produce and products. It is a low cost opportunity to test the market. Again some struggle to find sufficient local Farmers Markets on which to stand. Several of our markets would benefit from running fortnightly but again the fees are prohibitive.

  There is no body which oversees the standards at all Farmers Markets and hence they vary considerably. We are accredited with FARMA and adhere to a set of exacting rules to encourage confidence in our markets, producers and the food on sale. This tends to deter producers who do not use a proportion of local ingredients or who are not involved in the process of production but works to maintain good standards. Whether Farmers Markets should all work under a standard code of practice for their consumers benefit is a question worth considering in the future.

(v)  What has been the impact of specialist markets eg continental and farmers markets and do such markets integrate successfully with older markets?

  Farmers Markets have become very popular as consumers demand variety and an opportunity to help their environment and community. Also they provide a different shopping experience to supermarkets. We are not aware of any threat they pose to older markets especially as many operate on a day when the local market is not being held. We operate one market within a Traditional General Market in Leicester City Centre which benefits the main market as it brings additional customers to the area. However local produce traders struggle to compete unless they sell a speciality, eg organic produce, local cheeses and honey or provide hot catering. Many have decided that they will not attend unless the market is moved. The current site is limited in area and cannot accommodate more than 14 stalls. It will not thrive unless re-sited however at the present time this will bring the market under the Rival Market policy and a fee. Also it must be noted that the General Market at Leicester is in urgent need of redevelopment.

We have in the past closed a market in Melton Mowbray which stood with the general market due to lack of support from producers and consumers.

2.  THEIR SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC EFFECTS

(i)  What social and economic effects do tradional retail markets have on their local communities?

Social Effects

    (a) Increased integration of community and a sense of ownership(some markets are volunteer run).(b) Provides education and information for local consumers and a meeting place. Many farmers markets have a calendar of events which run with the markets, local community groups, recycling projects, school visits etc.(c) Fresher healthier meat and vegetables in season and at their best.(d) Environmental benefits, reduced travel, less packaging, British standards of animal welfare, traceability of products. Surveys at Blaby Farmers market showed that customers came from a small radius of the market and therefore did not threaten the City centre market thereby reducing travel to shop.

Economic Effects

    (a) Benefits local economy by attracting consumers who use town centre shops. Increases the amount of shops and restaurants using local produce.(b) Retain more money in the local economy.

    (c) Tourism.

    (d) Supports small local businesses and provides increased opportunities for trade.

(ii)  What qualities contribute to a successful market delivering social and economic effects and are there examples of best practice that have a wider application?

  A well managed, vibrant market with strong community and council support.

Markets which have good support from their council and community will develop other applications. Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council have provided excellent support for the Farmers Market at Hinckley which has led to other local food projects:

    — Taste of Hinckley (food trails).

    — Hinckley Farmers Market Festival which provides educational tours for local schools around the market to meet the producers and their livestock and to learn more about their environment and community.

3.  REALISING THE POTENTIAL OF TRADITIONAL RETAIL MARKETS

(i)  Does local government support markets effectively?

  As already stated the amount of support varies from area to area. However funding is always an issue and a lack of knowledge on local food issues is apparent in some areas. We would like to see much greater awareness on the importance of local food markets and the issues involved, more partnerships developed, and funding made available. More contact between rural and urban areas is becoming absolutely essential.

It is becoming increasingly necessary for all LAs to appreciate the role and impact that local food and farming has on its communities. We would like to see an increase in the number of partnerships formed with LAs.

(ii)  What are the advantages and disadvantages of local authorities having power to operate markets?

As stated above it currently depends on the authorities involved and the level of support they give to organisations trying to promote local food. It is very difficult for a community enterprise to find the resources to challenge a decision made by an Authority who perceives Farmers Markets as a threat rather than an opportunity. Equally it is difficult to find funding or support if your cause is not recognised or highlighted in LA or Government planning.

(iii)  Does central government support markets effectively? If not, what additional support should be provided?

We not aware of any support government provides, which is a problem in itself. We would like to see additional support given to Farmers Markets and local food provision especially in light of the current inquiry—"Securing food supplies up to 2050: the challenges for the UK" and the economic recession.

Leicestershire's local food network is not well developed. This is due in part to the restrictions that have been imposed by several charter holders. We would hope that the Government reviews the situation to enable Farmers Markets to develop and grow a comprehensive network and provide support for organisations like ours battling to improve the provision of local food.

  An economic recession could affect the viability of many Farmers Markets as part of the local small business network. Government needs to provide additional support now for their maintenance in order to reap the benefits in coming years. We would seek both financial support and assistance in achieving de-regulation.

(iv)  Could central government make better use of markets to achieve national goals, particularly with regard to social cohesion, health and regeneration

  Yes.

Farmers markets could be used to integrate different communities, provide information on healthy food options and to tackle regeneration in depressed areas. Food is common to all of us and those who appreciate food can work closely together for a common good. We are eager to promote health issues and the importance of nutrition but we find there are few examples of joint partnerships to tackle these issues. We are part of a local food organisation which has passion for what it does. With our expertise and that of our producer members our organisation could be used to work across our diverse communities to deliver educational workshops on a range of issues within the concept of the markets. There is no substitute for hands on knowledge and expertise, the opportunity to see where food is produced and to get involved with all aspects of what we eat.

  We too are concerned with current problems including obesity, poor diet and the lack of skills and knowledge regarding food and its origins. We are willing to help if given the appropriate tools for the job.

4.  PLANNING AND LICENSING ISSUES

(i)  Do local and national planning regulations support or hinder the development of markets?

  I am not aware of any issues relating to planning regulations.

(ii)  Do licensing regulations support or hinder the development of markets?

Our local wine, cider, beer and liqueur makers have only a limited number of temporary event notices which can be used at unlicensed markets this prohibits them from standing as often as they could or at certain locations. Equally we too, have a small number of applications that we can make which causes the same problems. This is especially relevant when we are asked to run one off Farmers Markets and find that our quota is used up very quickly.

(iii) What improvements could be made to the planning and licensing regimes to aid the development of markets?

We have yet to seek advice on licensing issues at new venues but would welcome an increase in the number of TENs allowed or the possibility of obtaining a roving licence for sales at Farmers Markets in conjunction with a Personal licence and training.


 
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Prepared 23 July 2009