18 February 2022
Consumers must recognise that growers have families too, says expert
IT's no secret that the cost of living is soaring for families across the UK, with major UK supermarkets including Tesco predicting further food price rises of up to 5% by the Spring. The stats seem jarring, but for many UK growers, years of competitive supermarket pricing and the effects of Brexit have meant that financial hardship is nothing new, says food industry expert and Managing Director of ethical online food retailer 44 Foods, Hannah Anderson.
“The Government estimates that approximately 5 million people in the UK lived in food poverty between 2019 and 2020. There’s no getting away from the fact that these stats are utterly shocking and something that we shouldn’t be seeing in modern day Britain.
“We’re already seeing food prices rising dramatically in supermarkets, but from a producers’ point of view supermarket price wars have meant that for many years, there has been a growing gap between the price we pay for our food and what it actually costs to produce it.
She went on to add: “The problem we’re now faced with is the fact that, through no fault of their own, consumers have become used to paying prices for their food that simply doesn’t reflect its actual worth. The prices we’re now seeing on our supermarket shelves are reflective of the rising cost of food production and as these are now at a level which makes it impossible for supermarkets to absorb, and with other monthly bills skyrocketing, it’s hitting consumer pockets hard.
“The sad reality is that, as sudden as these price rises are, for farmers and their families - some of whom are themselves on the precipice of financial collapse - these rises are the only way to ensure not only the survival of their individual businesses, but to ensure we can keep British produce on our shelves. For every business that collapses, you also have employees out of work who, again, suffer the knock-on effects.
Producers should be allowed to set their own prices, Hannah states, so that every item is sold at a price that accurately reflects the time, work and ultimately the costs that go into producing it. It is the business model adopted by 44 Foods, whose prices have also risen to take into account rising production costs, she said. "Unlike many supermarkets, we’re transparent with our customers, explaining the reasoning behind this as and when we have to put changes into place. We already charge what we believe is a fair price so any further price rises for us will be to ensure that our producers are paid what they deserve, unlike supermarket rises which are designed to protect the huge margins that supermarkets operate within."
Hannah said she recognises that some prices aren't affordable for everyone and the intention was not to exclude consumers from being able to access products, but to offer an option that is ethical and protects the livelihoods of producers.
“It really is a double edged sword - it’s absolutely not right that we’re seeing so many families struggling but it’s important to remember that producers and their employees who have been struggling for many years, have families to feed too.”