Thursday, June 12, 2008

Producing for Food Retailers

The NY Times follows up on yesterday's NY Post story about the possibility that the Hunts Point Produce Cooperative could relocate out of the city: "The market, a wholesale co-op, has been so successful that it has nearly outgrown its current home. So its directors have asked the city, which owns the property, to help them pay for an expansion that would cost more than $450 million. But according to the co-op, the city has balked at its request, and now the co-op is threatening to take its market out of the city — possibly as soon as its lease expires in 2011."

As we told the Times, this wouldn't be a good move for the city's food retailers: “We would be hopeful that this is no more than a bargaining position by the produce market,” said Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist for small business owners in New York. “At the same time, I think the city has to take it seriously.” He added: “The current site is ideal. It’s convenient for a whole wide range of retailers and restaurateurs, and the city has to move quickly to ensure that the current location of the produce market is maintained.”

The current location also provides the most convenient and inexpensive access to fresh produce for neighborhood food retailers. Access to fruits and vegetables has been a key component of the mayor's public health policy agenda. But access for the folks in the neighborhoods is dependent to a great degree on the ability of local food retailers to have a convenient and inexpensive source of produce-something that Hunts Point provides. Any relocation that drives up the cost of goods would have an unfortunate impact on low income consumers who have been designated as most in need of greater access to the healthier fare.

This is brought home by an article on rising food costs in this morning's NY Sun: "The number of New York residents who report having difficulty affording essential food has increased 55% during the last five years, to 3.1 million, and now includes record numbers of middle-income families, according to a report released yesterday by the Food Bank for New York City. The report blames the increase on rising food costs." Rising food costs have been linked with the disappearance of many local supermarkets as a major reason why low income and working class neighborhoods are not consuming fresh fruits and vegetables as much as they should.

And the produce market also provides a great source of employment for entry level workers, something that is vital to the economic base of the Bronx. It's important that all involved get together to insure that the market stays at the current location for the foreseeable future. As the NY Daily News reports: "The market supplies 3.3 billion pounds of meat, fruits and vegetables a year that are worth more than $2 billion to more than 10 million consumers, vying with France's giant Rungis produce market just south of Paris for sheer size and volume of sales." Let's get busy EDC!