Crops Conf: Cheap food still needed

28 November 2001

Crops Conf: Cheap food still needed

By Tom Allen-Stevens

SHIFTS in production methods should not ignore the price concerns of low-income consumers, warns a government food safety advisor.

Overall, price is an important factor for consumers, claims Richard Harding, Food Standards Agencys head of food chain strategy.

“It would be a mistake to assume all consumers would favour a move to less intensive production methods,” he told the Crops Conference near Cambridge.

Mr Harding argued that these sorts of systems, which included organic farming, would involve a drop in yields and a rise in prices.

“Some consumers are constrained by income and it should not be assumed they will pay more for food produced by less intensive methods.”

This would include a fifth of all UK consumers, who spend nearly double the average 16% of after-tax income on food.

“If local producers ignore their requirements, imports may rise,” he warned.

Mr Harding also spelt out the reasons for the FSA investigation into farm assurance schemes, saying their implementation “may not be sufficiently rigorous”.

“To be of benefit to consumers, they must be transparent, and offer meaningful choice and meaningful benefits.”

He questioned the use of logos on labels, saying they may only serve to confuse consumers.


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