In a recent discussion with MPs, Ali Capper, the Executive Chairwoman of British Apples and Pears, highlighted the detrimental impact of the UK's 'cheap food' policy on local producers.
She emphasised the need for a strategic shift to support and promote domestically grown produce, acknowledging that while it may not be the cheapest option for consumers, it is crucial for the sustainability of British farming.
Capper pointed out the significant disparity between the rising costs of production and the minimal increase in market returns for British apple growers.
Over the past two years, production costs, mainly labour and energy, have surged by 30%, but the market has only compensated with an 8% increase. This imbalance is further exacerbated by major retailers raising prices significantly, yet the benefits are not trickling down to the producers.
The government's policy favouring inexpensive food is not only encouraging poor buying practices but also increasing reliance on imports.
Capper warned of the long-term implications, noting that regions like Southern Spain and North Africa, currently key food suppliers, might face agricultural challenges due to climate change. She urged the UK to strategically plan for increasing its food production, suggesting ambitious targets to enhance self-sufficiency.
Guy Singh-Watson, founder of Riverford Organic Farmers, and Lizzie Wilson, Chief Executive of the National Pig Association, echoed similar concerns. They highlighted the continuous decline in the share of retail price received by primary producers and the increasing demands from retailers for higher standards in environmental sustainability and animal welfare, which add to the production costs.
The committee was urged to address these issues with major retailers, advocating for fair pricing and recognition of the rising costs in farming inputs. The discussion underscored the need for a balanced approach that supports British producers while meeting consumer needs.