Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Logic of the Global Market

Over the years, you have been seeking to unravaell the rules of the wholesale fruit and vegetable market. You have been searching for regularity, for patterns, for logic. Your efforts have yielded little results. You have some idea of where and when. You know where to look for wild mushrooms, and where to expect Asian vegetables; you know the location of the two Organic places, and that they are usually friendly there.

You know that Saturday is a slow day, so you should go early. During weekdays, you can go as early as 5am, but from 10.30am onwards the frantic motion subsides, so it is more pleasant to cycle about, and less dangerous too. By 1.00pm the day is all but finished, and all the skips have been devoured by the rubbish-mamoths.

But the real reguality, you have realized, cannot be found in rules or schedules. It lies in the elements which shape the working of the market. The constant elements are flow, change, profit and waste.

It is the flow - of fruit and vegtables to the market, from overseas, on airplanes and ships; the motion of the trucks bringing them in and out of the market; the movement of forklifts and rubbish-mamoths; and your zig-zaging between them all, evading them, trying to reach the full skips before they're gone.

It is the constant change, of varieties of produce and their coutnries of origin. At 10 o'clock it seems a really bad day; your housemate goes an hour later, and brings cornucopia in their bicycles panniers. When you start the round it is tomato season; when you finish it, it's spinach and leeks. One week the bananas come from Africa, the next they come from Venezuella. Seasons, in the Wholesale market, last for one hour.

These changes are dictated by considerations of profit. There are no price-tags in the market, and for you, the logic of exchange stops when you enter its gates (no need to bring your wallet there); you have no way to tell if eggplants are more expensive than cauliflowers. All the same you know that at the bottom of it, the market is no more than a profit-generating machine. The costs of transport; the ability to market certain varieties; the countries which offer the lowest agricultural wages: these fluctuating factors affect the short-term profits of the importers, and they (not the time of year or the traditional local diet) will determine what produce you find in the skips.

And waste, the last, and most constant element; the ultimate product of the Global Market. You can be sure to find waste in the market. Most times, you are able to save some of it, and feed your friends and family. Other times, you just see it being swallowed, sucked and trasnported away.

Flow, change, profit, and waste: the stable elements of the a world in flux. The market diaries: another chornicle of the destruction of the planet.

* * *

A day of lemons and Onions, but also
Red grapes (Spain)
Green grapes (Chille)
Blueberries (Chille)
Raspberries (Spain)
Yellow peppers (Israel)
Edible flowers
Sweet Potato
Organic: blue broccoly, baby artichokes, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots.

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