Kate O’Driscoll, Origin Green Ambassador, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board
With the UK depending on the EU for over a quarter of its food, time will tell what impact Brexit will have on the quality, origin and cost for UK consumers. The benefit the EU presents for agriculture is that it has made it considerably easier for the UK and the other European states to buy and sell goods to each other. This in addition to the loss of almost 3 billion in subsidies for British farmers and with many “already being paid below the cost of production prices” present conditions that are not sustainable without the cost being recouped somewhere else along the value chain .
The solution may well be efficiencies inside the farm gate but with self-sufficiency in agriculture in Britain having dropped from 82% in the 1980s to 61% today , a ramp up in agricultural activity will also no doubt be required for it to be the only solution employed.
With the UK grocery space already extremely price sensitive, price increases at consumer level will not be the first choice for retailers. Some claims made by The Bank of England suggest retailers are planning to “re-engineer products” as an alternative to passing on price increases. Although already denied by retailers, the lure to simply reduce package size or use cheaper alternatives to compensate for the increase in the wholesale cost of some ingredients must be an enticing one.
The uncertainty around Brexit, the waning strength of sterling and whether or not it will actually result in an increase in Britain’s food prices is yet to be seen not to mention whether the discerning and patriotic British consumer would accept an approach such as value engineering. Or, is it unfair to say would they even notice?
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