Why should we buy local?

It's socially, economically, environmentally and nutritionally good for you.

For decades, countries have specialised in what they do best and sold into the free market. For example New Zealand grows apples and beef really well and China makes electronics. With COVID-19 currently sweeping the world, the free market has faltered, and globalisation has been brought into question. I have had many conversations with friends and colleagues who are more conscious, they say, of being better at supporting local business. In some circles, the idea of supporting a local food producer is considered a middle-class fad and has had a lot of lip service to date. The idea is now getting a lot of groundswell. This article explores the economic, social, environmental, and nutritional benefits of communities buying local.

Today, more than 500,000 locally owned and operated small businesses employ upwards of 600,000 people and contribute 28 percent to New Zealand’s gross domestic product. In that mix are 54,000 agricultural producers. That’s a lot of people and a lot of output from small, local businesses. I’m confident that if you ask the next 10 people you come across whether they had convenient options to support local businesses over national chains for the benefit of their community, the vast majority would do so. What difference does electing to buy locally actually make? Let’s take a look.

Supporting Local Economy

Multiple studies around the world have proven that when people buy locally, double the amount of money stays within the local community compared to buying from a large corporate or multi-national because of a local economic multiplier effect. Put another way, spending a dollar on locally produced goods and services contributes about 70 cents of that dollar back into the community – compared with 35 cents for corporate or multi-national spend – with a multiplier effect because that money, in turn, is spent to buy things that are made by locally employed people… and so it goes on. Put yet another way, the benefit to a community of three thousand households that spend $20 per week on local producers instead of in the supermarket is a whopping three million dollars of annual revenue to those producers and a net gain of one million dollars circulating in that economy to create jobs and promote further spend.

Where do you buy your steak, sausages, and chicken? At the national chain supermarket? There is a good chance those products where sourced from overseas (have you seen how much beef on the supermarket shelf is from Australia?!). Irrespective of where your meat is sourced, it is difficult as a small producer to succeed with the supermarket multi-nationals because margins are driven into the ground by the buying power of the big guys. Here’s a thought: buy your beef from your local butcher, buy your fruit and veg from your local greengrocer, buy your wine and beer and juice from local businesses and buy it directly so that the full retail margin goes into their business and ultimately grows the local economy through employment, spend, more production and so on. Buy from a supermarket and all that money, apart from the minimum wage to local employees, leaves your town.

Build Resilience

We’re kicking COVID-19 – and how good does that feel? They say it takes 21 days to make a habit… well we’ve had 9 or 10 weeks of habit changing stuff going on. It is already changing our shopping habits as we head online now to buy. Supermarket supply chains are being tested and, while we are fortunate in New Zealand with the management of the crisis to date, our global supply chains are going to be hit hard over the next year to 18 months meaning that supply of some staples may be tested due to a shortage of labour to produce food as is already happening in the USA, transportation restrictions and a struggle for farmers to access their traditional distribution markets such as export, restaurant and hospitality.

If we buy local and support local, we don’t have the same supply chain issues. Our food producers are on our doorstep and they, in turn, have access to a local market to provide a source of income. In this time of crisis, simply keeping our business doors open is the new gold standard and having access to local produce from farmers not traditionally set to sell into consumer markets is key.

Be Kind to the Environment by Shortening the Food Chain

If a truck traveled locally and only a few kilometres to bring fruit and vegetables to your roadside store, your beef to your local butcher or your milk and eggs to your door, you’ve already made a massive environmental impact by purchasing from a local producer. The CO2 emissions alone of moving these products across the country in large articulated lorries to get to supermarkets around the nation clearly is an order of magnitude worse.
The paradox about local produce is that for the past umpteen years many local producers of beef, fruit, veg, dairy have all been chasing the big contract opportunities of the international markets. Export markets are not as beneficial for small producers as they may seem: currency fluctuations, regulation changes, long order-to-cash cycles mean that export can be profitable but it has a high risk for that reward.

Local Nourishes Better

Aside from the environmental impact, shortening the food supply chain provides the freshest food which has so much more nutritional value than the plastic-wrapped, snap frozen, super old produce on the supermarket shelves.  Produce that’s picked in the morning and served at dinner in the evening.  This is the way nature intended us to eat.   Let’s get back to that.

Here at Totally Local, we are doing everything we can to Bring Local Back. Our mission is to help local producers thrive in their local communities. Whether you are a local producer looking to generate profitable sales or a community member that wants to know what is going on in your area, we’d love you to get in touch.

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