Food prices ‘must rise for our security’

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Jay Rayner highlighted the need for higher food prices
Jay Rayner highlighted the need for higher food prices

Related tags: Food, Sustainable agriculture, Agriculture

Consumers will have to pay more for their food to enable British farmers to invest and ensure the future food security of the nation following the Brexit vote, leading food critic, writer, journalist and broadcaster Jay Rayner has claimed.

“The reason we need to spend more on our food now is because if we don’t enable British farming to invest, we are going to be absolutely screwed when a shock hits us,”​ said Rayner in his Society of Food Hygiene and Technology annual lecture at The Savoy in London last month.

Rayner suggested the average household spend on food needed to rise from its current level to at least 14% of income to enable a sustainable food future for the nation.

“I suspect it needs to go up by about 20%, if we are really going to provide the farmers with the income they need,”​ he said.

‘Income they need’

“Now, that does require the agricultural sector to invest. British farming has not always been the forward-thinking industry it needs to be.

“We need to see an absolute change in the way we are doing things, because it is not fit for purpose now.”

In a wide ranging talk, Rayner, who recently published a new book called ‘A Greedy Man in a Hungry World: Why (almost) everything you thought you knew about food is wrong’​, was scathing about the growing middle-class obsession with “local food”, “seasonality”​ and their distrust of new food production technologies, such as genetic modification.

He emphasised the need to embrace “sustainable intensification”​ of food production, while calling farmers’ markets “lifestyle choices”​ and organic food little more than a “marketing label​” that has had its day.

Positive advances

He was also dismissive of the proliferation of “natural”,​ when describing food. Rayner pointed to the positive advances that science – including food science – had brought.

“There is an issue around scale,”​ said Rayner. He cited the efficiencies that came with large, yet more sustainable food production systems and the global sourcing of food often with lower carbon footprints than by farming on a small scale and through sourcing food locally. “Food miles are not the issue,”​ he claimed.

Rayner stressed that “supermarkets are not evil” ​and had helped to make food more affordable for ordinary people, while raising food hygiene standards.

“When we talk about food, we have got to watch our language,”​ said Rayner. “We love to mythologise the food chain. We love to mythologise agriculture… and the retailers buy into it.”

Related topics: Supply Chain, Fresh produce

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