Speaking earlier this week at a session of the EFRA committee she said she was “very conscious” that food inflation has risen significantly. But highlighted the latest data that showed that it has fallen for the first time in 21 months which she described as “encouraging” but admitted it “is a lot higher than we would like it to be”.
However, despite these inflationary challenges she said that the Government has already given support to businesses and consumers.
“Overall I am not going to pretend there are going to be all sorts of extra packages coming in,” Coffey said. “I don’t think we are at a stage of doing a market intervention directly when it comes to pricing.”
When questioned about the difficultly that some people were having with the cost-of-living crisis she said the Government preferred to help people back into work and provide support through Universal credit.
“The Government is not going to provide free food and it is not the role of the Government to provide free food,” she added.
“It is a case of trying to get that balance and I am very conscious that it is challenging times for people.”
On the labour shortages facing the farming and food sector she said the country still faced a challenge with a significant number of people unemployed that are not filling all the vacancies that are potentially there. She also said she was in discussions with the Home Office about the seasonal workers scheme and would be looking to make an announcement soon.
She added: “The long-term strategy should not be for people outside the EU to come to this country to do certain jobs unless they are of reasonable value.”
An independent review of labour shortages in the food supply chain was currently being undertaken with the results expected in the Spring.
Coffey also revealed that Mark Spencer MP, Minister of State (Minister for Food) was meeting with retailers and processors to discuss issues of food and particularly those on eggs.
She added: “While I don’t believe there is a general shortage of eggs clearly there has been some issues on the supply chain. In particular I have seen anecdotally that the hospitality supply chain seems to have got glued up for a little that led to some significant buying in local stores of retailers.”