Government faces call for action on food prices

The government is facing increasing calls to curb spiraling food prices.

Farm minister Jim Paice is being urged to put in place a coherent set of policies that address food inflation and food security.

Laura Sandys, Conservative MP for South Thanet and Sandwich, will make the call in an adjournment debate on Tuesday (5 July).

“We need to take the 4.9% food inflation rate seriously as it is impacting all of our household budgets,” she said.

“If left unaddressed, it will also have a detrimental effect on the UK’s growth targets and will hamper consumer spending.

“I am urging government to look at food with the same intensity it has afforded to energy security.”

Food security and food price inflation had hardly ever been debated in the House of Commons, said Ms Sandys.

“It is high time we grappled with the complexities of this issue, as there is nothing that impacts our constituents more than the prices on our local shop’s shelves.

“Food inflation lies at the heart of political and economic instability internationally – we must not let it destabilise our ambition for growth.”

The call comes amid new findings that consumers want government action to curb food price inflation.

Rising food prices are driving a major shift in the way UK shoppers buy and think about food, according to research.

Consumers are changing their weekly shopping habits in response to inflation-busting increases in food prices, it found.

Shoppers are also more concerned about the global factors affecting food prices and the security of food supply for future generations.

More than half of shoppers were worried about the impact of climate change, population growth, water and energy supplies on food availability and affordability.

The independent survey was carried out by Network Research on behalf of the Crop Protection Association.

Most shoppers agreed that the era of cheap food has come to an end, and want the UK to become more self-sufficient in food production. Three-quarters of respondents said the government should do more to prevent further increases in the cost of food.

“For many people, increases in the cost of food are hitting other areas of household expenditure,” said CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer.

“There is an overwhelming view among respondents that the government should be doing more to keep food prices down.”

The survey findings were a wake-up call to policy-makers and regulators that a global food security crisis was urgent and immediate, said Mr Dyer.

Advances in plant science and crop protection would be critical to meeting future food needs, Mr Dyer added.

They should be matched by science-based EU policies that supported, rather than stifled, investment and innovation in agricultural science.

A Defra spokesperson said:

“The impact of food price inflation, and especially spikes in commodity prices, are a real cause for concern.

“We’re leading internationally and at home to feed a rapidly expanding global population in a sustainable way.

“That means we need to increase food production in a way that reduces the impact on the environment, as well as opening up global markets, boosting trade and making reforms that help the poorest.

“Important steps were taken at the recent G20 meeting, but there’s much more work to be done.”