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New food distribution model builds steam


Steve Spinks
6 December 2011
A cutting edge short supply chain engineered by a Southern Cross University researcher could change the way food is delivered from farmers to consumers.

Rose Wright, the manager for research extension which is attached to the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, presented her distribution model at the Australasian Regional Food Cultures and Networks Conference last week at Kingscliff.

Mrs Wright is advocating the creation of regional food networks, with local farmers selling some or all of their products through locally based co-ordinated trading systems before sending their surplus onto the central markets. This would make each region within Australia partway self sufficient while also returning a measure of the cost of food, back to the farmer rather than being wasted on the current complex distribution systems. It would also reduce the miles food travels between the paddock and the plate and support regional sustainability goals.

“The idea is not reinventing the wheel but slightly modifying our current system and behaviour. How we ended up with a system that sees regional food being taken to the city and then sold and transported back to where it was grown in the first place is incomprehensible,” she said.

“There is clear evidence that supports the need and merits of a short supply chain but we will have to change the way we’ve done business for years to make it happen. My model strips away multiple layers out of the chain and gives control back to farmers who usually lose control of their product once it hits the central markets and provides clear choice for consumers. It also maximises the profits for the farmers. It could make farming more viable.”

Mrs Wright, although an advocate for local farmers’ markets, said these alone do not offer all consumers the right balance of convenience, price or quality that they crave.

“Farmers markets affect only a small segment of consumers and farmers,” she said.

“They can have a huge benefit to the farmer and they are critical in developing a food culture, but they are only one component of a regional food system and not the only solution.

“For local food networks to move ahead they need to include numerous points of sale including independent retailers and supermarkets and the proper accreditation that stipulates the food is grown in the region it is being sold.”

Mrs Wright has helped growers set up a food network in Tropical Far North Queensland and is also in the process of working with stakeholders in Toowoomba, South Burnett and the Granite Belt.

Photo: Rose Wright