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Farmers good, big retailers bad - could that really be true?

Farmers good, big retailers bad - could that really be true?

Wed July 11, 2012 8:27am

As you shop, think about all the costs involved in getting a product to the shelves.

WHEN you buy something in a supermarket or a department store, how much of the price that you pay is the store's mark-up? And of that mark-up, how much covers the store's costs and how much is clear profit? Everyone has their own answers to these questions. But I suspect most of those answers are based on vague impressions and long-held prejudices rather than hard evidence.

When I was growing up, we were always hearing about the depredations of ''middlemen''. The poor farmers got terribly low prices for their meat and other produce, but by the time that produce went through many hands to reach us in the city, the prices were sky-high.

These days, we hear continually about the evil practices of the two big supermarket chains. They're busy screwing the life out of dairy farmers and other suppliers, just so they can use cheap milk and bread to lure us into their stores.

This may sound like a good thing for consumers beset by an ever-rising cost of living, but don't be fooled, we're told. The wicked retailers may be undercharging for a few staples, but they make up for it by overcharging for everything else.

Then there are all the people discovering from the internet just how much lower prices are in other countries. More proof we're being ripped off.

In the hands of the media, it's a morality tale. The farmers and manufacturers are the good guys getting squeezed; the big retailers and other middlemen are the bad guys raking it in and doing us down.

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