15 May 2024
Access to Affordable Food

The affordability of food is a serious issue and everyone has a right to nutritious and adequate food supply. High energy prices and pressures on global supply chains, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, have put pressure on food prices over the last couple of years as a result of increased input costs.

The Government supported households throughout a difficult period with measures such as the Energy Bill Support Scheme and Energy Price Guarantee. This brought total government support for energy bills to £1,500 for the typical household since October 2022 and means that the Government subsidised around half of household energy bills.

I know that the Government recognises that rising food prices are a big challenge for household budgets. he Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) continues to work with food retailers and producers to explore the measures that can be taken to ensure the availability and affordability of food. Defra continues to closely monitor the situation and is taking action to maintain an efficient food supply chain by mitigating against any potential burdens or friction which could otherwise drive-up consumer food prices. However, it is not for the Government to set retail food prices nor to comment on day-to-day commercial decisions by companies.

Finally, I am assured that the UK has a highly resilient food supply chain, as demonstrated throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Our high degree of food security is built on supply from diverse sources, strong domestic production as well as imports through stable trade routes. We produce 60 per cent of all the food we need, and 73 per cent of food which we can grow or rear in the UK for all or part of the year.

Food Prices: Retailers -

I am aware that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) meets regularly with food retailers to discuss a range of issues, including the impact of food inflation. Recognising the pressures people have been facing with food prices, I am assured that Defra will continue to engage with retailers to ensure that consumers have access to a range of affordable food.

Further, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has reviewed cost of living pressures in groceries, recognising the importance of price rises being as low as possible. I understand that the CMA found that in some cases, not all retailers were displaying prices as clearly as they should, which could affect people’s ability to compare product prices. The CMA therefore wrote to those retailers, warning them to make the necessary changes or risk facing enforcement action. I will continue to follow this issue closely.

Supermarkets and Loyalty Cards -

Regarding the use of loyalty card schemes, I am aware that the Government ran a consultation which included questions on the display of prices for loyalty card schemes and other promotions. The Department for Business and Trade has been analysing the responses to this consultation and I look forward to reading its response in due course.

Food Waste -

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has taken action to combat food waste, with £2.6 million investment in 2023. This includes working with and funding the Waste and Resources Action Programme to address food waste in households and industry. The Government supports the Courtauld 2030 Commitment, a voluntary agreement with the food industry with a target to halve food waste by 2030.

As well as tackling waste across supply chains, Courtauld signatories play a key role in providing consumers with support in reducing food waste at home, for example, by offering storage advice and appropriate labelling. The Government also funds WRAP's consumer campaigns such as Food Waste Action Week and Love Food Hate Waste which aim to raise public awareness of food waste and the ways in which individuals can reduce it.