In the very able and striking address which he recently delivered before the Society of Arts, Sir WILLIAM PREECE insisted that commercial successwhether of a man, of a body of men, or of a nationis referable to the working of distinct laws, the recognition and study of which may justly be said to constitute a science of business. In terms rendered the more severe by their dispassionate and moderate character, Sir WILLIAM referred to the lamentable ignorance displayed by the legislature, by the manufacturer, and by the general public, of what may bo regarded as the most elementary facts and methods upon which such a science must be based. He pointed to the loose and bungling character of our commercial legislation to the lack of cooperation and combination to the nonexistence of a properly organised and effective consular service whereby full information could be supplied and the interests of British trade, both home and colonial, might be studied and advanced and finally to the lethargy of British producers and manufacturers themselves, who allow foreign competitors to drive them out of even their own home markets without making an effort to discard the oldfashioned and wornout methods which have given those competitors the advantage. Of late years the warning voice has been raised from time to time, but it has been as a voice crying in the wilderness. The remarkable speech delivered at the Guildhall by H.R.H. THE PRINCE OF WALES is fresh in the recollection of those who are not too drowsy or too indifferent to appreciate the vital nature and the magnitude of the evil. In 1891 Lord PLAYFAIR stated that if the Americans were right in principle in the management of some of their commercial concerns, the whole policy of the United Kingdom was founded on a gigantic error, and must lead to our ruin as a commercial nation. Sir WILLIAM PREECE is amply justified in attaching severe blame to the British manufacturer and producer. They have allowed the Americans and the Germans to oust them out of their own markets, not by any superiority in the quality of their goods, but by lower prices, by superior knowledge of the demands of the markets, by the establishment of new markets, by better direct communication with foreign countries, by superior methods in business ways, by establishing regular intelligence departments, and, above all, by possessing and exercising superior commercial technical knowledge, and, continued Sir.WILLIAM, they must lay aside the commercial habits of their fathers. With regard to foodproducts, for instance, can it be truly said that any adequate steps are taken to secure any satisfactory and permanent improvement of the national food supply with respect to purity and good quality Has anything been done, with governmental or legislative assistance, to make a systematic study of, and provide authoritative information upon such questions as the sources from which food stuffs are obtained, the adequacy or inadequacy of supplies, the true value of homeproduce and the advantages of utilising colonial products as far as possible The answers to these questions can only be emphatically in the negative. There is no civilised country in the world in which the producer and vendor of adulterated, impoverished, and inferior articles of food can cany on their nefarious practices with more impunity, in certain respects, than in the United Kingdom, although, originally, we led the way in framing legislative enactments on these allimportant matters. At every port of entry today we might most appropriately set up the old wasteland notice that rubbish may be shot here. As we offer all the necessary facilities, and as they are being taken advantage of more and more, wo might also freely advise that rubbish should bo manufactured here as well, What steps do British producers and manufacturers of articles of food take to move with the times, to set their houses in order, to protect themselves, and to enable the public to differentiate between the good and the bad In the vast majority of instances the attitude they adopt is still one of unmasterly inactivity, except in the direction of unscientific and clumsy advertisement. On this they spend enormous sums without proportionate returns, and in following this course they constantly lay themselves open to condemnatory criticism by the publication of unauthorised and exaggerated statements which, in spit of CARLYLE'S dictum mostly fools, are now merely received by the general public with a shrug of the shoulders. The time has come when, in order not only to develop their trade but in order to keep it, British manufacturers must give evidence of an independent and authoritative character to justify the faith that is presumably in them in recommending their goods to the public. Those who refuse to entertain new ideas and who are content to rest in a semicomatose condition on the achievements of the past,relying merely on the possession of the hitherto reputable name of the firm,by the operation of an inexorable law must inevitably drop out of the race.
British Food Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Nov 1, 1902
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