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Opinion: Food on the table - it's simple economics

We are told that Brexit was to blame for recent fruit and vegetable shortages – but that referendum was seven years ago.

Debbie James

What have supermarket bosses, politicians and bureaucrats been doing in those intervening years to allow the smooth processes of trade from countries around the world?

Shortages of fresh produce are down to the pricing structure of British supply chains which don’t allow prices to fluctuate with supply and demand.

In Europe in contrast, when demand exceeds supply suppliers are paid more and this enables them to find alternative sources. It also reduces demand, so balance is regained.

British supermarkets are not prepared to pay our farmers a fair price for their produce. As farmers cannot afford to operate at a loss, the result is empty shelves.

In many cases the returns for our growers here in Pembrokeshire don’t cover the costs of production. Simple economics tell us that you cannot run a business when you are getting less for a product than it costs you to produce.

The UK’s habit of sourcing cheap food from overseas has also forced many farmers out of business. We cannot and should not rely on this strategy going forward.

Sixty years ago it took an average household two and a half days’ wages to pay for the week’s groceries. It now takes about half a day’s wages to pay for a shop, even at today’s inflation-busting prices.

We are going to have to pay the correct price if we want our farms and countryside to thrive.

There is little doubt that food will be more expensive in the years ahead and we are going to have to readjust to that.

In the meantime there is only one possible plus side from the empty shelves we continue to see in some food stores and that is less food waste and maybe a better appreciation of our food.

About the Author: Debbie James is a farming report for Wales Farmer.


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