UK food price inflation: What policy interventions should the Government consider?

The EFRA Commons Select Committee asked a pertinent question in their Call for Evidence, to which we responded in full here.

This blogpost is about what policy options they do have regarding the relentless rise in food prices, sometimes sharp, in the short and medium term.

Regarding household income
We recommended a mix of the following options:

  • Increasing basic household income
  • Child benefit for all, given to the career, with a larger allowance for the under-5s
  • Investing in the utilisation of surplus retail and wholesale stocks to provision a new catering service supply chain (1) which could then . . .
  • Contribute to the economies of scale in stigma-free provision of mass catering services to include
    • free nursery and school meals for all children
    • cheap, healthy meals in community venues
  • Fiscal incentives for the provision of subsidised safe, nutritious meals for all employees.

The elimination of non-tariff barrier costs between the UK and EU
We pointed out that food prices have risen because of this Brexit. Import and export businesses can no longer operate on a level playing field without the costs of

  • Non-tariff barriers with the largest free trade area in the world resulting in . . .
  • spoilt produce owing to customs delays
  • operating two sets of standards

We also pointed out that many food businesses had chosen to go out of business, and more look set to follow with further detrimental effects on UK food security.

The particular circumstances of Northern Ireland
Owing to this Brexit, too, shoppers in Northern Ireland have become used to food shortages and scarcities of produce on wholesale and retail shelves. (2) This could also be addressed, through the elimination of non-tariff barriers with the EU27.

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(1) For how this could work, see our earlier work on contingency stock systems; e.g. this ‘one scenario’ report.

(2) Will we on the mainland experience something similar? Avian flu, the hungry months, this Brexit; e.g. see this Twitter thread. IT issues at Waitrose blamed for their shortages.

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