The UK government must address labour shortages and make sure regulations don’t weigh food producers down to help ease food price inflation, an industry lobby group has warned.
Downing Street hosted a Farm to Fork event at No10 with retailers, traders and producers invited, as Rishi Sunak announced greater protections for farmers in future trade deals.
Food and Drink Federation chief executive Karen Betts called on ministers to urgently look at regulations, border checks and skills shortages.
Betts told City A.M. that while the summit was a “constructive first step” it was “a pity there wasn’t more of a laser focus on immediate issues and the drivers of inflation”.
She added: “Action to fill labour and skills shortages and to simplify current and upcoming regulation, as well as simplifying post-Brexit labelling changes, would help to drive down prices.
“It’s critical that government takes the time to ensure that their draft regulation on packaging recycling in particular will actually work. The current design is likely to drive further and avoidable costs into food businesses, which will add to the cost of everyone’s weekly shop, just as prices should be starting to come down.”
And she told the PA news agency: “Alongside farming issues, we believe the summit must address costly and heavy-handed regulation, post-Brexit labelling requirements, skills shortages and the complexity of border checks, all of which are pushing up costs when food price inflation is at a record high.”
However, National Farmers Union (NFU) president Minette Batters told PA the summit was “positive” and “extremely timely”.
Speaking outside No10, she said she was confident Sunak “gets the issue” being “from a very rural constituency” where “farming is at the heart” of the local economy.
“I think there has to be realisation in government that a lot of the regulation and legislation that we’re facing is very costly,” she added.
It comes as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced an investigation into whether customers are being overcharged for food and fuel, including hunting down any “failures of competition” potentially contributing to surging grocery costs.