It’s been a good couple of weeks for communicators who happen to be fans of The Archers on BBC Radio 4. Hasn’t the on-going story line of Pat and Tony Archers’ business falling off the cliff and almost taking Tom’s – their son – sausage business with it been fascinating?
For those of you who are not quite up to speed on this here is a short résumé. Thanks to Clarrie Grundy returning to work in the dairy too soon after an illness, some of Pat and Tony’s customers picked up an e-coli infection from eating Bridge Farm yoghurt. Two children ended up seriously ill in hospital. It was big news. Sales dropped, customers deserted them and supermarket contracts were cancelled. The Bridge Farm brand became toxic, and infected their veg business and Tom’s sausages.
I’m lucky enough to sitting in my hotel in Nicaragua writing this blog. The hotel basks in the warming sun and 300C heat in Granada on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, Central America’s biggest lake. And the city of overlooked by the stunning Mombacho volcano. But I’m not here for a holiday but for work (I know it’s tough but someone’s got to do it). Part of that work is to look at a coffee farm which has been certified by the Rainforest Alliance and to see for myself the sustainability benefits this brings. But what has been really striking to me is how a farmer farming coffee here in Nicaragua has problems keeping the farm operating as a viable economic unit. Problems that would find resonance with many farmers in the UK. And how sustainability is part of securing the future, but only if the farmer is also able to get more value out of, and become more powerful in, the supply chain.