In the past 25 years, the face of retailing across this country has changed completely. In have come the big supermarkets and out have gone the local community shops - bakers often being a typical example. And I see nothing in the preliminary report from the Competition Commission that will change anything one iota (pg 8).
It says issues brought to its attention include the character of town centres and high streets and while farmers sometimes may get a raw deal, suppliers, it thinks, are faring OK.
No threats or promises though. No recipe for change yet. Plant bakers and ingredient suppliers may have fewer small customers but the best of them also have much larger customers in the supermarkets and are grateful for that. So overall, it’s rather bland.
Of more interest is the Sustainable Communities Bill, sponsored by Conservative MP Nick Hurd, which has cross-party support. By its existence, it recognises that something needs to be done. It says local shopkeepers should be among those who have a say in planning, parking and, let’s hope one day, in fair business rates. Furthermore, it specifically recognises the value of local food traders because anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that shoppers follow food.
That guardian of local bakery traders, the National Association of Master Bakers (NA), has found that it is time for tough decisions at the top. Recently appointed CEO Gill Brooks Lonican has decided to close the training section of the NA, which has lost a considerable amount of money over the years. Our columnist and past president Tony Phillips has been against the way it was run from day one, despite the talent of its assessors. His views have been vindicated and Gill Brooks Lonican has shown the common sense and courage needed by a new CEO (pg 6). This bodes well for the association.
Meanwhile, organic wheat prices are at an historic high (pg 4). There is a global shortage of organic wheat and there is no good news on the horizon. But as we went to press the great news is that the national media is full of stories about how wholemeal bread and a high-fibre diet can help prevent breast cancer in pre-menopausal women. Let’s hope sales of added-value wholemeal simply soar!