Monday 23 December 2013

6 Cents a Kilo

Basic white icing layer goes onto the cake
€0.06 a kilo! That is the ridiculously low price at which our most-used supermarket, Lidl's is currently selling carrots as a Christmas promo. They are obviously moving a good few too, and the sales 'gondola' is backed up by an 8 foot tall pallet of new trays sitting still on its jack-truck ready to re-stock the position as the stock is snatched up and the empty boxes tossed aside.

Making pastry.
Now, these 'loss-leaders' are nothing new. The technique of putting highly visible, fast moving 'staples' out at prices lower than cost has been in the retailers' armoury since well before anyone had heard of Lidl. It is common knowledge that this attracts in the 'footfall' and there is enough margin on everything else that the supermarket still makes a tidy profit across your whole basket. The marketing boys do occasionally get it wrong; Tesco famously added so many loyalty points to bananas, that people were buying them by the pallet and giving them away in the car park outside

The problem here is that Lidl have chosen to do it with an obvious farm produce line in a rural area. There is already enough flak coming in quite rightly from farmers for the well known squeeze being put onto farm gate prices on produce such as milk and meat which is forcing many farmers out of business. This is wrapped around further with the habit of the supermarkets for moving the goalposts after the contract is signed and the crop is in the field, or the animals half grown; they add 'marketing subsidies' and demands for the grower to help out on promotions by dropping the price still further. Then there is all the stuff around food waste - supermarkets are well known for demanding the correct size and shape of carrot and taking only 2/3 or less of the grown crop (sometimes none of it!).

Now, I am not suggesting that Lidl will have dropped the price to the growers of carrots, sprouts and so on, to 4 cents a kilo but that is the smell it gives off, and there have been howls of anguish from farmers and growers who are a big industry here and the social media networks like Facebook have seen a bit of this. People who know me will probably also know that I have no moral high ground to stand on, here, having been, for 29 years in working life, a part of the super-marketing industry. In my case it was Sainsbury, where I worked in chilled food depots and distribution, so you could certainly accuse me of working hard to promote this kind of behaviour and spending all day trying to make my supermarket ever more successful.

We also shop regularly in supermarkets, so we felt both sad and guilty when our much-loved local Indian cookery ingredients shop, Hidiyat's, went to the wall last month, throwing in the towel having been undercut by their local supermarket, SuperValu. The Balla-D branch of SuperValu has steadily been increasing its range of Indian ingredients and selling all of them cheaper than Hidiyat's. Again, this is nothing new and all over the UK town centres have been stripped of their small business shops as the big boys have swallowed up their customers. We're just a little behind 'over here' and the towns do not have the really big boys (there is no real Tesco presence and no Sainsburys out here). Plenty of small businesses cling on, even through the recession. SuperValu manage to keep it a bit local, maintaining ranges of local produce such as cheeses and bacon rather than having it all in Central Distribution. There is no equivalent in Ireland of the 500,000 square foot 'Fulfillment Factory' Distribution Centres run by Sainsbury's round the M25. Ireland does not have the population to support them.

Anyway, 6 cents a kilo was a silly enough price that we grabbed up 4 bags for the feeding of rabbits over Christmas, and maybe a bit of Christmas dinner for Cody the horse. It is cheaper than any rolled barley, oats or 'meusli' you'd buy for them in a feed merchant. It would be good at that price, to be feeding the pigs on carrots! To be fair we then bought a €2 bag at the next shop of old tired carrots and parsnips past their sell by date in what Liz and Diamond would call the "Salmonella Corner" (the discounted racks) so we have done our bit there to reduce food waste.

Chestnut Mushrooms grow for free in the Polytunnel
You will have noticed that I have been waffling on for 6 paragraphs about carrots, but all my pics today are from today's Christmas Cookery operations, nothing to do with carrots. Liz has been on the mince pies, this time with homemade shortcrust pastry. The 'Jusrol' brand 'puff' which got used last time proved to be too puffy. I have had a first go at marzipan-ing and icing a cake and I am quite pleased with the results.

Sharp eyed readers may note that this is a 'Happy Hogswatch' cake, not actually a Christmas Cake. Hogswatch, for the uninitiated is the spoof version of Christmas which appears in the Terry Pratchett 'Discworld' series of books but if you need to know any more about that, then I'd ask you to go look it up. TP is a writer who both of us and all of the Silverwoods follow, and as it is likely that we, collectively, are the only people likely to see or eat this cake........

The mushrooms are a goody crop of chestnut mushrooms now coming out of the 'spent' mushroom compost in the poly-tunnel. I gave it all a good water and then closed the door on it and in this mild weather, it is keeping good and warm in there. The only problem I have is that the bales of compost we brought back, I found it easiest to invert them onto the ground to tip the contents out and pull off the plastic wrap 'tray', so the wads have gone down upside down. The mushroom fruiting bodies do not seem to be able to cope with this and are growing downwards, so you only see the crop to harvest, when the base of the mushroom pushes up the substrate enough to break it. Finally a nice pair of Panda slippers which Liz spotted while out shopping for presents in Carrick.

That is probably my lot pre Christmas, so I will sign off but first, wish all my readers the best possible time over the break and a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Happy Christmas, or possibly Hogswatch. Look after yourselves.

1 comment:

anne wilson said...

The mince pies look good, well done on the cake, it looks good, fortunately we don't do icing as neither of us likes it but we make our own marzipan and put it on real thick.Haven't checked the tunnel for mushrooms but I doubt we have any as we had weathered the compost before using it.