There’s been so much talk in Ireland recently about prices and about cutting back – companies cutting their cost base and consumers reducing their spend. While this is natural in a recession, and while both consumers and companies have to adjust their outlays to match their means, it doesn’t mean that everything has to be cheap or that it needs to come from abroad, where cost are much lower. There are cheap alternatives out there, and the number of them will no doubt increase as people look for bargains. However, there is still a very human need to treat ourselves from time to time.
That’s, I think, where the small Irish food producer comes in. There are Irish food products that, in my opinion, stand up to any around the world. These products, including cheeses, chocolates, speciality meats, and fish can provide that treat, not only here but abroad, and I am hoping the companies making them will do well even as the economy contracts. My brother and I lived through a recession in the US, and it was generally companies positioned at the top and bottom of the scale that survived while those in the middle suffered. Discounters flourished, but so did small, high quality artisan food producers.
One of the benefits to the small producers doing well was that they were more likely to buy locally produced ingredients, supporting their local economies and building a web of excellent ingredients and products. We live on a small island, and we are well suited to do the same, but the choices we make will be critical. Not only do I believe that we should be pushing harder to improve both the quality and appreciation of Irish foods, but we need to be building that web by connecting food suppliers and producers and doing more to support each other. For ourselves, for example, choices like buying Kerry Cow milk from Colm (photo above), stocking top quality Irish chocolates, and insisting on local free range eggs will make a difference. Such choices benefit both the Irish economy and the options available to ourselves as consumers.
There is no question that as a country we will have to find savings where possible, and that there will be less money to spend. By spending it wisely, however, we can support those Irish food producers we think deserve it, build toward a quality future, and ensure Ireland is synonymous with food excellence.
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