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The turn to the market in UK food policy 2002-2015 and its impact on the vegetable sector in England

Moorhouse, J. (2017). The turn to the market in UK food policy 2002-2015 and its impact on the vegetable sector in England. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The aim of this study is to understand how ideas about markets and marketing have shaped food policy. It focuses on the vegetable sector in England in the early years of the new millennium. The study takes the 2002 Report of the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming and Food (Curry Commission) as its starting point. It explores how the Curry Commission’s ‘Turn to the Market’ call was interpreted and acted upon by vegetable production in England, and by UK Government (in practice English) Food Policy 2002-2015. It attempts to understand why and how policy makers turned to the market, what they meant by it, and how it changed how those involved in vegetable production thought about and responded to the marketing challenges they faced. The study centres on theoretical understandings of how food policy develops, and draws in marketing theories to contribute to that policy analysis.

The study used qualitative methods - a combination of documentary analysis and fieldwork interviews with practitioners, policy-makers and analysts. Two research questions were formulated from the literature review: (1) how have ideas about markets and marketing shaped UK Food Policy since the Curry Commission?; and (2) what impact did the Curry Commission - and the policy that followed - have on English vegetable production? An analysis was conducted of policy documents of the period 2002 – 2015. Interviews were held with 23 key informants who were experts on and/or actors in English policy and vegetable production. The research adopted a realist and critical pluralist approach to food policy development.

The research explored: how particular ideas of markets and marketing shaped wider UK Food Policy 2002-2015; how the marketing themes in UK Food Policy evolved; how UK Food Policy understood and framed the priorities for the vegetable sector which then opened up particular solutions and foreclosed others; and how the marketing ideas in UK Food Policy 2002-2015 affected how those involved in English vegetable production understood and responded to the marketing challenges they encountered.

The findings show that UK Food Policy evolved from a proactive ‘Turn to the Market’ Food Policy under New Labour to a reactive 'Market Dominated' Food Policy under the Coalition government (2010-15). Policy framed the problems for the vegetable sector as a failure to market and devised policy mechanisms to support better marketing using ideas from orthodox marketing. The policy based on better marketing did halt the decline in the vegetable sector and helped it engage in more environmentally benign production practices. Growers still found it challenging to generate sufficient profit to reinvest and they felt that support for better marketing did not always work in practice.

The thesis concludes that the marketing concepts do enrich food policy understanding. A markets-as-networks (MAN) analysis is proposed to provide a better way of understanding the marketing problems in the context of buyer dominated vegetable supply networks, where interaction is an important feature of supply relations and where exchange is embedded in on-going relationships. The research discussion considers the extent to which markets-as-networks (MAN) ideas offer a better framework for policy goals to increase the production of vegetables in England as part of a sustainable model for agriculture. Relationship marketing, from orthodox marketing, displays some features in common with the MAN tradition. By proposing this common ground between orthodox and heterodox marketing, the thesis offers directions for a revitalised market-oriented understanding of UK Food Policy and its development.

Key words: UK Food Policy, vegetable production, markets, marketing, heterodox marketing, markets-as-networks, England

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
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