Among the Christian farmers' blessings is a fine writer who also happens to be the general manager of their organization, John Clement. Here's his latest take on food perceptions and agriculture.
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The Myth That There’s Only One Market For Food
By John Clement
March 21, 2008
It’s a persistent myth that there’s only one market for food. Despite the fact that the food market shows ample evidence of great diversity in price, quality and other factors, I continue to hear people slip into the mental wagon rut of thinking that the food market is uniform and unitary.
The Myth takes several forms, but it all works out the same. There are several forms of the myth about a single food market that I continue to hear on a regular basis:
- The Myth says that all consumers want cheap food. The reality is that consumers do flock to supermarkets for cheap food. However, the myth overlooks the fact that many of the same consumers who buy inexpensive food also pay premiums for expensive steaks, cheeses and other items.
- The Myth says that all consumers want to buy organic or functional foods. The reality is that some consumers do want organic or functional foods because of perceived benefits, but most are happy with conventionally-produced foods that are deemed to be safe and healthy.
- The Myth says that all consumers want to buy local Ontario food. The reality is that local food is carving out a growing niche amongst Ontario consumers who want to support local farmers. However, many consumers are driven by a variety of motives, including price and convenience. All things being equal, they might purchase Ontario foods, but for many consumers it will only be one factor among many in their purchases.
While the Myth says there’s only one market for food, the reality is that the food market is made up of both undifferentiated commodities and value-added products. It is a tiered market driven by a wide variety of factors, including price, quality, perceived benefits and a multitude of other factors.
The key question for farmers as they look at this tiered market is to decide which part of the market they want to target for their production and to assess whether or not they can accept the financial margins involved. And the other key component is to make sure they have a business plan that reflects the market they are aiming at, plus the resources to make it happen.
John Clement is the general manager of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham and CHOK Sarnia, Ontario and is archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org/index.html. CFFO is supported by 4,353 family farmers across Ontario.