Case study review
Follow the thing: Papaya
Follow the thing: Papaya (Cook, 2004) aims to be accessible to both academics and non-academics, and to not just appeal to those already especially well informed about the issues and ideas brought up with it. The method of following several different people in different roles throughout the supply chain makes it easier to follow for non-academics without lowering the quality of information provided. This is important as it allows the general public a better understanding of where food comes from and some of the affects their decisions at a supermarket have on the world. The paper looks at the supply chain of the papaya on multiple levels, from a farm in Jamaica to UK supermarkets, as well as a wide breadth of issues present within the current globalised market that affects most products on said market. From the dangers of the papaya farm, to the complexity of setting a price for a British supermarket and how to market a new exotic fruit to the masses, Ian Cook (2004) brings up many important points about the current global system. One of the very interesting issues brought up was the many, many factors behind high food costs; specifically the needlessly high food standards set by supermarkets and consumers. One of the ways Follow the thing: Papaya (Cook, 2004) looks at the supply chain is from the perspective of Mina, a speciality fruit and veg buyer. She speaks about how she does not think she would ever buy papaya from one of the supermarkets she buys for because she can get a better deal from an Ethnic shop. Part of the reason for the supermarkets' high prices is because “Everything’s got to look perfect” (Cook, 2004); fruit and veg in non-standard shapes and with blemishes are not sold in big chain shops. This idea is supported by previous data, showing a real problem with how fresh produce is managed. All fruit and vegetables, not just papaya, have to meet high cosmetic appearance standards set by supermarkets, not the government. These ugly fruit do not dither in nutritional quality but “Knobbly carrots, wonky spuds, bent courgettes and discoloured cauliflowers” (Vidal, 2012) are normally rejected leading to vast amount of produce left to rot. These too high standards leave good food going to waste, driving up food prices in a time where many go hungry. For example, in Global food losses and food waste (Gustavsson, et al., 2011) the snapshot case: appearance quality standards (page 10) talks about how on a British farm, M.H. Poskitt Carrots in Yorkshire, large quantities of out-graded carrots were sent off as animal. The reasons for being out-graded included “having a slight bend”, not being “orange” enough, having blemishes or being broken (Gustavsson, et al., 2011). Asda’s quality standards require that all carrots should be straight, without clefts or odd bumps, “so customers can peel the full length in one easy stroke”. This means, of the 25-30% of their produce out-graded half was because of “rejected due to physical or aesthetic defects, such as being the wrong shape or size; being broken or having a cleft or a blemish” (Gustavsson, et al., 2011). Consumer surveys say that the general public are willing to buy fresh produce that are non-standard in appearance, for example “the ‘wrong’ weight, size” (Gustavsson, et al., 2011), as long as it does not affect taste. This may be getting through to supermarkets as several supermarkets have shown they are willing to relax the rules on the cosmetic appearance of fresh produce on years with poor crop yields like in 2012. March 2012 was “an exceptionally mild month and the driest for the UK since 1953” (Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), 2012), which combined with an unseasonably wet June, autumn stores and flooding dropped British fresh produce by “25%” (Vidal, 2012). That year Sainsbury supermarket chain “relaxed its rules on the cosmetic appearance of fresh produce”. This allowed fresh produce “that would...
Bibliography: Cook, I., 2004. Follow the thing: Papaya. Antipode, 36(2), pp. 642-664.
Gustavsson, J. et al., 2011. Global food losses and food waste-Extent, causes and prevention. [Online]
Available at: http://www.fao.org/docrep/014/mb060e/mb060e.pdf
Minter, E., 2003. Pros & Cons of interviewing. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin.
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), 2012. Hydrological Summary for the United Kingdom. N/A: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
Vidal, J., 2012. The Guardian. [Online]
Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/sep/27/ugly-fruit-vegetables-supermarkets-harvest
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