Tag Archives: small farms

Build local food systems and local business alliances: eliminate unnecessary trade

In 2001 Caroline Lucas pointed out that over the past 30 years, the rise in the trade in meat, live animals and other agricultural products in and out of Europe which has been dramatic, often involves, simultaneously, a reverse trade in precisely the same products. Examples of this absurd “food swap” include the facts that Britain:

  • imported 61,400 tonnes of poultry meat from the Netherlands in the same year that it exported 33,100 tonnes of poultry meat to the Netherlands and
  • imported 240,000 tonnes of pork and 125,000 tonnes of lamb, while at the same time exporting 195,000 tonnes and 102,000 tonnes of pork and lamb respectively.

This truly absurd position mostly rewards a few already very wealthy farmers, the supermarkets and multinational food companies, at the expense of small and medium scale farmers in developed countries, and – via the dumping of CAP surpluses – those in developing countries as well. 

Local Futures is focussing on the absurd way trade works in the global economy

“Countries ship identical amounts of identical products back and forth every year – from potatoes and beef to waffles and bottled water. More than half of the seafood caught in Alaska is sent to China for processing, then shipped right back to be sold in American supermarkets (Alaska Journal of Commerce, 2018). And all this unnecessary shipping generates enormous amounts of carbon emissions”.

They believe that it’s time to raise our voices, spread the word about ‘insane trade’, and change the rules of global trade to support local livelihoods instead of corporate profits

It wastes resources, worsens climate change, and undermines the livelihoods of millions of small-scale producers worldwide. Yet it is an almost unavoidable consequence of de-regulatory ‘free trade’ agreements and the billions of dollars in supports and subsidies – many of them hidden – that prop up the global economy.

  • Mexican calves fed American corn are exported to the United States, where they are butchered for meat, which is then sold in Mexico – The New York Times, 2017.
  • African-grown coffee is often packed in India,
  • Canadian prawns are processed in Iceland
  • and Bolivian nuts are packed in Italy – UK Times, 2007.

The way forward: 

– Prevent Climate Chaos: eliminating unnecessary trade would immediately reduce pollution – including CO2 emissions – and slow resource depletion.

– Say YES to Local Economies: localizing helps small farms and local businesses to thrive,
strengthens community, and supports personal well-being. 

– Buy local food and other local products.

– Help to build local food systems and local business alliances. For links to other organizations working on these issues, see the Local Economies and Rethinking Economies and Food & Agriculture categories on the Links page.

To raise awareness about this issue, we’ve produced a short film and a fully-referenced factsheet (cover above, right) that helps to explain how and why ‘insane trade’ happens.


Anyone interested in volunteering time to translate the film or factsheet into another language, please contact info@localfutures.org. Readers could also help by getting the film and factsheet seen by as many people as possible, following the Facebook and Twitter pages and sharing posts about insane trade which will be going up throughout the week.