Photo: Nathaniel Schroeder (flickr)
Indiana farmers are split on whether a Wal-Mart initiative announced this week to buy more produce directly from local growers will help their bottom lines.
Wal-Mart already has a plan to double the amount of local produce it has in its store by 2015. It began that initiative in 2010. Officials say the new commitment to buy straight from the grower instead of going through a wholesaler will improve the freshness of their local products.
Parke County Produce Owner John Fisher sells pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers to the retail giant. He already sells to Wal-Mart directly and says the benefits have been mixed.
“We probably get a 30 percent better price or more. But then we have the inconvenience of direct store deliveries, each store individually,” he says.
Those transportation costs cut into profits, but Fisher says he is willing to deal with the drawbacks.
That’s not true of Melon Acres, a farm in Southwest Indiana.
It was a part of a 2010 Wal-Mart campaign showcasing the company’s commitment to local agriculture but Melon Acres Project Manager Norman Conde says he has not dealt with Wal-Mart directly for several years now.
“It’s because there are other buyers that would pay us more and we deal through brokers and the brokers operate on a percent, so obviously it’s to both our benefit and their benefit if they sell to people that pay more,” he says.
Wal-Mart is still the major player in the industry, buying more U.S. agricultural products than any other retailer in the world.