Resilience and sustainability: the origin of produce at Queen Victoria Market concerning the external population, marketing method, and food security.
The sustainability and resilience of Queen Victoria Market were yet to be researched, and not many studies can be found about the topic; therefore, we are investigating in this manner and trying to fill the gap. We are also interested in how the foreign population, marketing strategy, and food security relates to this issue. The way we study the question is by looking at the local, regional and global networks of produce in Queen Victoria Market and any reasons that may solve our problem. We applied case studies through interviews that were carried from September to October 2019 at Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Victoria. The results suggested that the produce in Queen Victoria Market is mostly locally grown with very high resiliency. Very few foods are found to catering the rising foreign population and tourists; however, it does show a trend of a marketing plan made to gain sells in which also includes the security of food as a selling point. This study revealed the real aspiration from farmers, sellers, and customers regarding the issues whether they believe local or international produce sales model is playing a role of shaping the sustainability of Queen Victoria Market.
The debate over food safety has only recently emerged in Australia, where some predict the population could reach 35 million by 2050 (Millar, 2012). It is no doubt that the value of
Australian produce's export price is dropping and imported foods are rising in prices by looking at Figure 1. The resilience and sustainability of a food infrastructure mean how well the farm and their distributors can manage and sell their products after being affected by outside factors. We the group from the University of Melbourne, therefore, wants to understand the current resilience and sustainability of the Australian food market.
Figure 1. Trends in the value of Australian food trade (Millar, 2012).
1.1 External Population
One of the universally accepted positive effects of the Australian migration programme is the diversity of cuisines currently available in Australia's urban centres (Edwards, 2000). Melbourne has been named the world's most liveable city for the fourth year in a row, according to a survey of 140 cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit (Scott, 2015). Queen Victoria Market, in particular, is a historic working market for residents and visitors, reflecting the cultural history, diversity and tastes of Melbourne and Victoria (Andrewartha, 2017). People from all around the world shop here for their daily groceries, making it the perfect spot for us to seek evidence of our proposed question: whether the external population/immigrants is affecting the resilience of produce sold in the market. Immigrants add variety to our diets and add to our shopping carts; the craze for ethnic cuisine is seen as a sign of the maturity of Australia's cosmopolitan society (Edwards, 2000). We were supposing that there is food sold to foreign customers that are imported overseas to attract people's eye, which has the potential of harming the sustainability of Australian farms.
1.2 Marketing Method
The competitiveness of Australia's food marketing chain, or conversely, the presence of market forces in it, has been the concern of farmers and policymakers for most of this century (Griffith, 2000). When investigating in the origin of produce the sellers tend to give different answers, and some might be biased because local foods always sound better and can attract more consumers since Australia is known for its healthy food and produce that natural, clean, and organic. However, researchers have found that retail prices are rising faster than farm prices, and farmers' share is falling from Figure 2 and 3 (Griffith, 2000). This leads to the hypothesis of possible deliberate propaganda about the origin of the produce for boosting sales, which drives to inequality.
Figure 2. Nominal retail and farm beef prices, 1970^97 (Griffith, 2000)
Figure 3. Nominal retail and farm banana prices, 1979-97 (Griffith, 2000)
1.3 Food Security
Food security has become a global concern, but its measurement varies widely across disciplines and countries (Renzaho, 2010). With the population growing from 22 million in 2010 to 36 million in 2050, Australia as a food exporter may need to produce more food in the future, and it will also have to meet growing domestic food demand (Millar, 2012). "Food security can be defined as 'when all people have material and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food at all times to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active, healthy lifestyle'" (Pollard, 2014). Thus by looking at the origin of produce in Queen Victoria Market will give us some sense of how sustainable the local food source is and from an investigation on why people choose to purchase the foods can provide us with more information regarding how "safe" the foods are.
2.1 Research Development
This research is to examine the impact of local, regional and global networks of Queen Victoria Market and any issues that would enhance or reduce its resilience and sustainability. Our method was to collect data and messages through surveys, interview, picture/video recordings when needed with permission gained. We chose Queen Victoria Market as our target because we originally planned on investigating in Aldi supermarket, but the manager and employees don't seem to be engaged with our topic of research, therefore refuses our interview. Then we made video meetings and communicated online to try to find a solution. Later on, we decided to do Queen Vic Market because the farmers there are more likely to accept interviews and also align with our original topic, not much need to be changed in terms of the structure of our questionnaire.
Questions for the customers
How often do you go food shopping at QVM?
What are the main products you tend to buy here? (e.g. Fruits, vegetables, meat etc.)
If you were to buy your fruits and vegetables here at the market, would you prefer to buy local or overseas produce?
Table 1. LSGC - Queen Victoria Market Interview Questions for Customers
Questions for the stall-holders
1. Where is your produce from? Is it local to Melbourne or Victoria?
2. What kind of customers would you say you'd get regularly? Do you get more locals or tourists?
3. Do you think people should shop at the QVM for their produce rather than supermarkets? If so, why? (Note: if the interviewee gets stuck on this question, try using a guided answer – e.g. Do you think shopping local is better for the local economy?)
4. If you were buying produce for yourself, would you prefer Australian-grown produce?
If so, why? (Note: again if they get stuck, try – Would you like to know where your produce is from?)
5. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of markets like the QVM, in comparison to larger supermarkets (like Coles)?
6. Is your produce seasonal? (e.g. Do you sell produce according to the season? – summer = watermelons)
Table 2. LSGC - Queen Victoria Market Interview Questions for Stall-holders
The tables above show one part of our research method - the interview questionnaire. As we can see that Table 1 and 2 were used when we are interviewing the customers and stall-holders in Queen Victoria Market and on top of that if the interviewee seems interested in a particular topic we would also discuss along and take notes for future references.
With the hypothesis of the market would be highly sustainable and resilience in mind, we carefully altered our questions such that no personal information will be asked and also split into groups of two so that we can utilise our time most efficiently.
3. Results and Discussion
We did a total of sixteen sellers and four costumers interviews in Queen Victoria Market across a variety of produce such as vegetables, meats, coffee, cheese, etc. The sustainability of the
Melbourne market is crucial to Victoria (Veerapa, 2012). Here we will discuss the results in both quantitative and qualitative ways to give an all-around perspective of our findings.
Out of the 16 stall-holder interviews, only six found are having imported foods and mostly the reason was that it is not grown or manufactured in Australia such as cheese, which is mainly made in Europe, coffee beans, which are made all around the world like South America, Africa, Indonesia, etc. As for the customers, all five believe it is better to shop local, which gives us an answer in the consumer's opinion. So this answered our first question about how resilience Queen Victoria Market is by looking at the numbers since most of them are locally made.
Map 1. Origin of Fruits and Vegetables Sold at the Queen Victoria Market
Above (Map 1) is the mapping that our team member Thibaud made according to the data that we have collected, it is not hard to tell that most of the products are grown in places along the coast due to the drought area in the centre of Australia is not ideal for plants to grow. Nevertheless, most of the red parts are around Melbourne, meaning less food is being transported from a long distance away from the market.
Although the agricultural products market is very popular as a tourist attraction, as a cultural attraction, the research on the agricultural products market in tourism literature is insufficient, and the research on consumer experience from the perspective of interests is also lacking (Kay, 2006,
January). Picture 1 below shows us the marketing sides that we discussed earlier, it was taken in Queen Victoria Market on the day we went for interviews, turns out farmer and sellers love to promote their sells by listing their product made in Australia, especially for fruits and vegetables, those shows the most benefit such as non-GMO, low carbon footprint, lower price, freshness, etc.
Picture 1 : Sign at the QVM Picture 2: Sign at the QVM
We also gained some polls from Instagram about our research questions (See Gallery 1 below).
Gallery 1: Instagram Polls for Preference on Aussie-made Produce
When asked about the question why there are Asian style chicken breasts made foods in one of the vendors, the seller answered: "Some Asian style foods, not to favour the Asian customers but because they are made from good produce (chicken) and everybody loves them." This shows the fact that the local market doesn't feel favoured just because they have specific areas' food available; instead, they like to sell everything that is fresh, good quality, and good taste for everybody, no directional purpose about the rising foreign population.
In terms of food security, the following answers from stall-holders in Queen Victoria Market explain: "Of course local. I want to support [the] local economy. The produce here is fresh, but on Saturday and Sunday, it is not very fresh. They sell not fresh produce for sale, one big tray for two dollars"; "Yes Australian. We know that it's a little bit fresher than something that's come from overseas. Organic ones are more expensive, but that would be my choice." The consumers generally love to support foods made locally because it helped the local farming economy and delivered right to its land - Australia, therefore, will reduce the time for transporting, which both guarantees the minimum pollution the food might absorb on the road and also saves the environment in general with the smaller ecological footprint.
We must pay attention to the resilience and sustainability of the food network that we currently have in Australia since the increasing demand for local consumers and pressure from climate change. As examined by our group, through the lens of the external population, marketing method, and food security, we can see that the market is currently pretty flexible. Although some of the origins were not Australia, it still shows that the consumers want to have local food daily instead of foreign ones when there is a choice for it. However, as we have seen earlier some of the sellers might be over advertising their produces' origin, and once that was formed into a habit, it's also problematic, because within Australia there are also competitions on where the foods are from in different states, or cities. That can eventually harm the sustainability of foods as they overly rely on their origins. As a conclusion, the benefits of the food supply network in Queen Vicotria Market was found to be superior to its drawback. In the future, it is suggested to pay more attention to the selling pace as some products are found to be less fresh on the weekends than weekdays, other than that Queen Victoria Market is very sustainable.
Andrewartha, J., 2017. Rally declares'Hands off Queen Victoria Market'. Green Left Weekly, (1136), p.4.
Edwards, L., Occhipinti, S. and Ryan, S., 2000. Food and immigration: The indigestion trope contests the sophistication narrative. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 21(3), pp.297-308.
Griffith, G., 2000. Competition in the food marketing chain. Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 44(3), pp.333-367.
Kay, P., 2006, January. Understanding tourists' cultural experiences Benefits and satisfaction at the Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne. In ANZMAC 2006 Advancing theory, maintaining relevance Proceedings of the ANZMAC 2006 conference (pp. 1-6). Queensland University of Technology, School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations.
Millar, J. and Roots, J., 2012. Changes in Australian agriculture and land use implications for future food security. International journal of agricultural sustainability, 10(1), pp.25-39.
Pollard, C.M., Landrigan, T.J., Ellies, P.L., Kerr, D.A., Underwood Lester, M.L. and Goodchild, S.E., 2014. Geographic factors as determinants of food security: a Western Australian food pricing and quality study. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 23(4), p.703.
Renzaho, A.M. and Mellor, D., 2010. Food security measurement in cultural pluralism Missing the point or conceptual misunderstanding. Nutrition, 26(1), pp.1-9.
Scott, M., 2015. Melbourne Strong DNA, great place!. Planning News, 41(4), p.22.
Veerapa, D.K., Veerapa, N.K., Gorajek, L. and Magazin, S., 2012, September. Opening hours of the Melbourne Wholesale Market and their impact on the sustainability of the market. In II Asia Pacific Symposium on Postharvest Research Education and Extension: APS2012 1011 (pp. 433-440).
Link to all references (alphabetical order) downloadable in PDF format: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Za03lfQTXvzJfCVK28CjOkvWGMkYDeia
Link to some of the recorded interviews downloadable in MP4 format: https://drive.google.com/open?id=12qc6vkJD9rzvYCuEv6fp4v03LG38smfg
Link to all of the instagram polls downloadable in jpeg format: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1_ZXCD1SDUJ0M7H3Y5HL1iUHL_mSkfLel
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