Food Prices and Food Poverty
Opposition Day — [Un-allotted Day]
Laura Sandys (South Thanet, Conservative)
I do apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker.
To address the bigger problem of food insecurity, we should look to the energy model. This Government’s strategy on energy insecurity aims to manage a valuable resource, to address the waste in the system and to build greater UK resilience to international price fluctuations. With some tweaks, several of those policy mechanisms could and should be adopted for food. Security of supply is an example. The previous Government cannot claim much credit in that area. Imports of food increased by 52% under the previous Government and agricultural land was diverted away from production. Thank goodness, today we have Ministers who understand the issues of production.
To build greater security of supply, domestic production must, in my view, increase. We must build a hedging mechanism against global volatility and realise not only that food imports will become more expensive but that the level of imports, with a weak pound, is having a negative impact on our balance of payments and placing an inflationary pressure on benefits and entitlements.
We must address food waste with a similar tenacity to that with which we are addressing energy waste through the green deal. We need to reverse the indulgent years
that deskilled the consumer in food preparation and supported profligacy in the supply chain. Customers—we, the consumers—are often accused of being responsible for such waste, but I disagree. The system is designed to create waste and the consumer is merely responding to how the supermarkets and other retailers sell their products. The waste in procurement is terrifying and I hope that the grocery code of practice will ensure that we reduce some of it. As I have mentioned before, my campaign through Ugly Food is one way of addressing some of the waste embedded in our system.
Waste is also embedded in the design of consumer-facing products. Robert Flello talked about the packaging and presentation of food. People blame the customer, but is it their fault? Servings of food are often too big and processed foods are heavily advertised. Although the Government have made a great deal of progress on display dates, safety dates mislead the consumer about the longevity of products. Point-of-sale displays draw consumers to larger packages rather than smaller units of food and BOGOFs—buy one, get one free offers—neither help single item shoppers nor reduce the bills for family shoppers.