Amidst all the talk that one hears about the British economy, with its reference to big numbers and big concepts like “gross domestic product” and “fiscal balances”, it is easy to forget that it is, in the end, the skill and ingenuity of our people that enables us to compete and hence creates our wealth.
I was reminded of this last when visiting an organic farm in West Dorset.
Times aren’t easy for farmers as a whole – and organic farming, which once benefited from burgeoning demand and large premiums, is no exception.
Although there is still a premium price for the product, the additional costs make margins tight – and organic farmers, therefore, have to find ways of improving their economics.
Nothing daunted, the farmer I was visiting had thought hard and imaginatively about other ways to use his land beyond the grazing of his cattle and the growing of his crops – and had alighted upon balsamic vinegar.
The special feature of this particular balsamic vinegar is that it is made from cider apples. Beautiful packaging and labelling, and rich in colour and texture, it has been walking off the shelf at profitably high prices.
What is more, it seems possible that the extensive grazing required for organic production of milk can be combined with the growing of apple trees in the fields, so that this highly prized product can be produced on the very same land that is already being used for other purposes.
It is really the same story as the astonishingly good wine that’s now being produced in Dorset, not to mention the vodka that is now being produced locally. Along with the production of first rate meats, cheeses and baking , our Dorset food manufacturers are now entering entirely new markets with very considerable dexterity.
These are the real-life stories that lie behind phrases like “the rebalancing of our economy”. It is not banks and bureaucrats that rebalance an economy. It is people like these Dorset farmers and growers and food-makers (and thousands of other skilful manufacturers around the country) who can take on the world and win in the global race.