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Why food should be more expensive For once, Jeremy Clarkson is right

Most farmers don't have an Amazon Prime contract (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Most farmers don't have an Amazon Prime contract (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)


February 13, 2023   6 mins

Jeremy Clarkson has finally said the unsayable. Ahead of the launch of the second series of Clarkson’s Farm last week, Britain’s most famous farmer declared: “Food is far too cheap. I know you can’t say that, but it’s far too cheap.” He wants food prices doubled, because currently farmers are “working seven days a week with their arm up a cow’s bottom for nothing”.

If you are a consumer, with food inflation at 14.6% per annum, you doubtless wish that Jeremy Clarkson would shut up. If you are a farmer, with input inflation running at anything up to 400%, in the case of electricity, you applaud him for articulating a truth usually only whispered behind closed barn doors. Food is too cheap.

In the Fifties, about a third of an average household’s budget went on food; now, it’s about a tenth. What’s the cost of this cheapening? Well, aside from the ruin of the farmed environment by relentless exploitation, food has been devalued: we now throw a third of it away. Moreover, farmers now “work for nothing” — or thereabouts. A report last December revealed that cereal farmers receive, on average, 9p from an 800g loaf with a retail price of £1.14. When the cost of growing and harvest is calculated, the cereal farmer is making a 0.09p profit.

The report analysed other everyday foods, including apples, cheese, beef burgers and carrots. In every case, the farmers or growers received less than 1% of the profit after the deductions of intermediaries and retailers. In some sectors of farming there is merely pure loss. For much of 2022, pig farmers were losing ÂŁ60 for every animal they offered up to consumers. By Christmas, free-range egg producers were losing nearly 30p on every dozen they supplied.

Welcome, then, to the mad world of British farm economics, where cost of production is skyrocketing but the amount a farmer gets paid for his or her goods is risible. A mad world, where farmers subsist on subsidy — which, over the past few decades, has made up over half of the average farm income — and diversification. Alas, most farmers do not have an Amazon Prime contract, so the usual diversification is a farmhouse B&B — at best a modest and seasonal income stream. When all the numbers were run through Defra’s calculator, it found that the agricultural part of the average British farm business made ÂŁ5,600 profit in 2022.

For this ÂŁ5,600, the British farmer works an average of 65 hours a week. Many in livestock farming work in excess of 100 hours a week, every week, whatever the weather. You can’t take a break or even be ill: the livestock depend on you like kids do. So you end up forking hay to Margot the 550kg heifer, despite your broken ribs. The same Margot accidentally gave you those broken ribs.

Unsurprisingly, given the long, hard hours for the short money, farmers are flocking out of the industry, or cutting back on production. One third of members of the British Free Range Egg Producers Association say they have either reduced their number of hens, paused production, or left poultry farming completely. As for dairy farmers, the nation is running dry. Between 2020 and 2022, the number of dairy farms dropped from 11,900 to 7,880. In 1950, there were 196,000 dairy farms in the UK.

So now you know why so many in British farming think Clarkson is doing more for the industry than three decades of Countryfile ever did. He has told the truth that none of us dared speak, in the middle of this cost-of-living crisis: food prices need to go up. And if you listen very closely at the barn door, you might hear some pertinent rhetorical questions. Why can’t the great British public perhaps spend a bit less on their iPhone or their foreign holiday, and a bit more on their daily bread? But Clarkson is correct: you can’t say things like this to the media. Even if you are a farmer with an Alcatel 1B, who hasn’t had a foreign holiday for years and works for less than the National Minimum Wage. You’d be trolled to death.

Where Clarksonian economics are unfortunately reminiscent of Trussian economics is in the optimistic assumption that any mark-up in the shop price will trickle back to the farmer. Grocery retail in the UK is dominated by supermarkets, which take over 95% of consumer spending on food. That retail is in turn dominated by the “big four” of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons (although discounter Aldi is now perhaps pipping Morrisons to fourth place). These super supermarkets are making super profits, despite inflation and the cost-of-living crisis: Sainsbury’s is expecting ÂŁ690 million this financial year, while Tesco expects retail-adjusted operating profit in its 2022-23 financial year to be ÂŁ2.4-2.5 billion.

Since the opening of the first supermarket in Britain — a Co-op in Manor Park in 1948 — the supermarket business model of pile high, sell cheap has involved squeezing supplier price until it starts to hurt. That is where the eye-watering profits come from. It is as simple as that. Someone pays for the supermarket “price war”, and it’s almost always the farmer. That benevolent two-for-one offer on punnets of strawberries? Behind the label are thousands of farmers who signed a contract to deliver strawberries without a price being set.

Supermarkets are failing farmers in ways not limited to the paltry remittance. Everybody in farming who has dealt with one — or worse, with the intermediary, the producer organisation — has stories about orders being cancelled without justification or notice, about a cheaper foreign source being found, about the arbitrary rejection of fruit and veg for lacking the correct aesthetic. One arable farmer responding to a Feedback survey on the role supermarkets play in crop waste estimated that 1,750 tonnes of his annual carrot crop are refused by the packhouse, because the carrots are too small, too big, too crooked. Another endless irritation is the supermarket’s restrictive contractual stipulation that packaging is done by companies nominated by them, at twice the cost of the same service on the open market.

Yet another beef is the supermarket’s habit of foisting all risk onto the farmer. If a supermarket over-orders, guess who picks up the bill? When a cauliflower glut occurred in 2017, Geoff Philpott’s buyer dramatically reduced their order, leaving him with 100,000 vegetables to plough back into the Kentish ground. Something like this happens every day in British agriculture. According to a 2017 survey by the Groceries Code Adjudicator — the ombudsman created by Parliament to bring some fairness to the supermarket-supplier relationship — in 20% of cancellations, the farmer receives no compensation from the supermarket.

Large farm enterprises may be able to weather the vicissitudes of supplying supermarkets, but smaller enterprises fare less well. The Council for the protection of Rural England cites the “inequality of power” between supermarkets and suppliers is blamed for driving small and medium-scale agricultural holdings out of business; the number of farm holdings in England alone fell from 132,400 in 2005 to 104,200 in 2015, according to Defra data, a loss of over a fifth of all farms in just ten years. Cheap food, Prince Charles warned in a Radio 4 essay last year, threatens the survival of the country’s smaller farms — and if they go, it will “break the backbone of Britain’s rural communities”. Small farms preserve the identity of regions, and offer employment in places with few job opportunities. They are part of their community in a way that mega agri-industrial enterprises are not, and never will be. And they also tend to be associated with biodiversity and landscape protection.

Yet the supermarkets insist they are the friends of farmers. Aldi and Lidl are currently love-bombing us, with the chief executive of the latter’s GB branch, Ryan McDonnell, saying last week that the company would be spending ÂŁ2 billion more than planned on “buying British” in the coming year. Aldi has pledged to spend an extra ÂŁ3.5 billion a year with UK suppliers by the end of 2025. Alas, British farmers have heard such wooing noises before — in 2022, Asda pledged to buy only British beef for its fresh meat counters, only to drop the commitment last month. And Lidl are encumbered by their record: last year they ranked the worst of any major retailer in the 2022 Groceries Code Adjudicator survey, with less than a third of suppliers saying the company consistently complied with the Groceries Supply Code of Practice — the legislation introduced in 2010 precisely to protect food and suppliers to the 14 major supermarkets.

Farmers tend not to complain to their supermarket or the dreaded middle man, for fear of retribution. Tesco has nearly 30% of the UK pork market, so if you piss them off, finding another outlet is far from easy. “What I’m concerned about is that most farmers and growers are incredibly nervous about speaking up,” Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union, told the Telegraph last week, when asked about the supermarkets’ hardball practices. “They know that the dangers of having their products delisted are enormous.”

Farmers may not wish to speak up in public, but in the privacy of their own homes, 500 of them filled in a survey for Sustain’s Beyond the Farmgate report. Just 5% preferred to sell to supermarkets. Overwhelmingly, farmers wanted localised selling, via independent retailers, box schemes, and the farm gate. This would put more in their pocket, as well as supporting climate change and nature objectives. For farmers as for consumers, every little helps.


John Lewis-Stempel is a farmer and writer on nature and history. His most recent books are The Sheep’s Tale and Nightwalking.

JLewisStempel

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

IDK. I think the author is conflating cheap food with predatory pricing by large grocery chains. If retailers are taking 95% of the sales price, that’s the problem. You can double the price of carrots, but nothing changes for the producer if grocery stores get 95% of the increase. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I really doubt it’s higher prices. There needs to be structural change in the relationship between producers and corporate buyers.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Well said. I also don’t believe that people only spend 10% on food. My quick googling seems to show the average household income after tax is £30k, or £600 a week. I’d wager most families spend more than sixty quid a week on food

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I’m confused by the downvotes, are my figures wrong or do families survive on £60 a week?

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I agree, it has to be more like ÂŁ100-ÂŁ150

AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I suspect the downvotes are because you’ve focussed on what is a very poor assertion on the part of the writer, which really should have been marked for removal by an editor, and simply voice agreement with another commenter, which doesn’t really offer much to debate besides that supposed statistic.

This article raises multiple good points, but the overall quality of it isn’t great because Unherd editors simply do not look at the quality of the assertions being made with a critical eye, or check that an article is properly researched, and do not demand proper references for statistics that are quoted. They seem to care more for whether the general theme of the article ticks a particular box they want ticking, rather than the quality of the writing or research involved.

This means that the claim of 10% of money going towards food is unable to be properly critiqued, because we don’t know the source of the claim, or even the precise claim that source actually makes.

Lesley Keay
Lesley Keay
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

I think the 10% figure was correct up until fairly recently. The overall increase in the price of food due to inflation, has I would suspect meant that the ‘average” family now spends more than 10% of their income on food.

Richard Maslen
Richard Maslen
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

You are all missing the point! Without small farmers the rural social system will not survive. “Without the peasantry, where will we find the Army?” Save the small family farms and let the big ones work it out for themselves.

AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Maslen

I suspect as I am one of those who actually grows food on a small scale, I am actually aware of the complexities of that end of the market, but small scale farming cannot produce food for the masses with anything like the efficiency, yields or pricing that larger farms do, and small scale farming already has a niche market carved out for itself in the form of organic and heirloom produce.

AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Maslen

I suspect as I am one of those who actually grows food on a small scale, I am actually aware of the complexities of that end of the market, but small scale farming cannot produce food for the masses with anything like the efficiency, yields or pricing that larger farms do, and small scale farming already has a niche market carved out for itself in the form of organic and heirloom produce.

Lesley Keay
Lesley Keay
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

I think the 10% figure was correct up until fairly recently. The overall increase in the price of food due to inflation, has I would suspect meant that the ‘average” family now spends more than 10% of their income on food.

Richard Maslen
Richard Maslen
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

You are all missing the point! Without small farmers the rural social system will not survive. “Without the peasantry, where will we find the Army?” Save the small family farms and let the big ones work it out for themselves.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I agree, it has to be more like ÂŁ100-ÂŁ150

AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I suspect the downvotes are because you’ve focussed on what is a very poor assertion on the part of the writer, which really should have been marked for removal by an editor, and simply voice agreement with another commenter, which doesn’t really offer much to debate besides that supposed statistic.

This article raises multiple good points, but the overall quality of it isn’t great because Unherd editors simply do not look at the quality of the assertions being made with a critical eye, or check that an article is properly researched, and do not demand proper references for statistics that are quoted. They seem to care more for whether the general theme of the article ticks a particular box they want ticking, rather than the quality of the writing or research involved.

This means that the claim of 10% of money going towards food is unable to be properly critiqued, because we don’t know the source of the claim, or even the precise claim that source actually makes.

Samuel Turner
Samuel Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I’m not so sure. Bread, milk, eggs, and pasta are incredibly cheap. Most households in the UK are made up of 2 adults and 1 or 2 kids. Around ÂŁ20 a week per person is entirely doable. Excluding alcohol of course, which can be a huge drain on someone’s finances.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Turner

Bread? Cheap? I wouldn’t look at anything that isn’t organic, wholemeal, sourdough and wood-fired, and by the time some French butter is added I’ve already blown your weekly budget.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Samuel Turner

Bread? Cheap? I wouldn’t look at anything that isn’t organic, wholemeal, sourdough and wood-fired, and by the time some French butter is added I’ve already blown your weekly budget.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Just copy/pasting here – “According to NimbleFins analysis of data from the Office of National Statistics, the average UK household now spends around ÂŁ4,296 on groceries and ÂŁ1,628 on food at restaurants and takeaways every year. As a result, UK households spend 16% of their budgets on food and non-alcoholic drinks.”
ï»ż

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I’m confused by the downvotes, are my figures wrong or do families survive on £60 a week?

Samuel Turner
Samuel Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I’m not so sure. Bread, milk, eggs, and pasta are incredibly cheap. Most households in the UK are made up of 2 adults and 1 or 2 kids. Around ÂŁ20 a week per person is entirely doable. Excluding alcohol of course, which can be a huge drain on someone’s finances.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Just copy/pasting here – “According to NimbleFins analysis of data from the Office of National Statistics, the average UK household now spends around ÂŁ4,296 on groceries and ÂŁ1,628 on food at restaurants and takeaways every year. As a result, UK households spend 16% of their budgets on food and non-alcoholic drinks.”
ï»ż

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I’m not convinced with the authors arguments and scenarios, which appear to have been skewed by recent energy crisis and inflation. Farmers always moan about stuff, it’s part of what they do. The ones who are on the ball make a very good living out of it. If you’re a fat city bloke with no experience then no doubt you’re going to struggle.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Spoken like a true townie. Clueless.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Pffft. I worked in the livestock industry and dealt with farmers on a daily basis. They reminded me of football fans in how everything was never enough, always moaning, always whinging. UK farmers make a reasonable to good living – look it up.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Pffft. I worked in the livestock industry and dealt with farmers on a daily basis. They reminded me of football fans in how everything was never enough, always moaning, always whinging. UK farmers make a reasonable to good living – look it up.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Breathtaking ignorance.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Spoken like a true townie. Clueless.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Breathtaking ignorance.

AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The article does make this precise point, that even if prices were to be doubled, there is nothing to prevent the supermarkets from absorbing this price increase into their obscene profits, so it is not saying that Clarkson’s argument is without flaws.

It is fundamentally correct about how the attitudes of the consumer need to change though, because even if we solved the issue of supermarket greed tomorrow, price rises would still have to rise, especially for imported foods in order to end reliance on subsidy schemes and allow farmers the independence they need to make the best decisions for good yields and more sustainable practices that will protect our capacity for food prroduction for the long term.

Subsidy schemes are not by any means some benign hand giving farmers extra cash for whatever they want, they are bureaucracy laden and often very restrictive in terms of what farmers can produce. Individual farmers are best placed to determine crop rotations and what is best for the sustainability of their own soil and ecosystems, and what will improve their yields, but they can’t do that when they have some bureaucrat who has never seen their land dictating what and how they can farm. Bureaucratic and political interventions in farming need to be subtle, nuanced and gently applied in order to produce the best results, and subsidies are far from any of these things.

Consumers by and large don’t understand the issues that affect farmers and food production, and care more for being able to eat whatever they want all the year round for the lowest prices possible even though that is doing huge amounts of environmental damage and leading to global exploitation of farmers. Our way of eating is simply not sustainable, no matter how much people complain about food prices, our society has made a rod for its own back, and sooner or later, we are going to have to adjust our attitudes to food to reflect these inconvenient realities.

Lesley Keay
Lesley Keay
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

Very true.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

Why are supermarket profits obscene? What is their return on capital? Do you think the sector is uncompetitive in some way: do say?
I for one am delighted that they are doing such a good job of ensuring choice and best value in the supply chain.

David Lawrence
David Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

‘even if prices were to be doubled, there is nothing to prevent the supermarkets from absorbing this price increase into their obscene profits’
I don’t think Clarkson is arguing for a doubling of retail prices per se. The problem is with the farm gate price (and to an extent the margin that the processors can make). When the farm gate price is only a small fraction of the retail price, the later’s increase only needs to be modest.

Lesley Keay
Lesley Keay
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

Very true.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

Why are supermarket profits obscene? What is their return on capital? Do you think the sector is uncompetitive in some way: do say?
I for one am delighted that they are doing such a good job of ensuring choice and best value in the supply chain.

David Lawrence
David Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  AL Crowe

‘even if prices were to be doubled, there is nothing to prevent the supermarkets from absorbing this price increase into their obscene profits’
I don’t think Clarkson is arguing for a doubling of retail prices per se. The problem is with the farm gate price (and to an extent the margin that the processors can make). When the farm gate price is only a small fraction of the retail price, the later’s increase only needs to be modest.

tug ordie
tug ordie
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The race to the bottom is a consequence of centralization and efficiency. The problem is it only works for so long. If you can afford it, buy directly from a farmer at equal or higher prices

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  tug ordie

Why pay more than you need to?

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  tug ordie

Why pay more than you need to?

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I think you didn’t read the article carefully. This is exactly what the author has said.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rick Lawrence
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Well said. I also don’t believe that people only spend 10% on food. My quick googling seems to show the average household income after tax is £30k, or £600 a week. I’d wager most families spend more than sixty quid a week on food

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I’m not convinced with the authors arguments and scenarios, which appear to have been skewed by recent energy crisis and inflation. Farmers always moan about stuff, it’s part of what they do. The ones who are on the ball make a very good living out of it. If you’re a fat city bloke with no experience then no doubt you’re going to struggle.

AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The article does make this precise point, that even if prices were to be doubled, there is nothing to prevent the supermarkets from absorbing this price increase into their obscene profits, so it is not saying that Clarkson’s argument is without flaws.

It is fundamentally correct about how the attitudes of the consumer need to change though, because even if we solved the issue of supermarket greed tomorrow, price rises would still have to rise, especially for imported foods in order to end reliance on subsidy schemes and allow farmers the independence they need to make the best decisions for good yields and more sustainable practices that will protect our capacity for food prroduction for the long term.

Subsidy schemes are not by any means some benign hand giving farmers extra cash for whatever they want, they are bureaucracy laden and often very restrictive in terms of what farmers can produce. Individual farmers are best placed to determine crop rotations and what is best for the sustainability of their own soil and ecosystems, and what will improve their yields, but they can’t do that when they have some bureaucrat who has never seen their land dictating what and how they can farm. Bureaucratic and political interventions in farming need to be subtle, nuanced and gently applied in order to produce the best results, and subsidies are far from any of these things.

Consumers by and large don’t understand the issues that affect farmers and food production, and care more for being able to eat whatever they want all the year round for the lowest prices possible even though that is doing huge amounts of environmental damage and leading to global exploitation of farmers. Our way of eating is simply not sustainable, no matter how much people complain about food prices, our society has made a rod for its own back, and sooner or later, we are going to have to adjust our attitudes to food to reflect these inconvenient realities.

tug ordie
tug ordie
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The race to the bottom is a consequence of centralization and efficiency. The problem is it only works for so long. If you can afford it, buy directly from a farmer at equal or higher prices

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I think you didn’t read the article carefully. This is exactly what the author has said.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rick Lawrence
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

IDK. I think the author is conflating cheap food with predatory pricing by large grocery chains. If retailers are taking 95% of the sales price, that’s the problem. You can double the price of carrots, but nothing changes for the producer if grocery stores get 95% of the increase. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I really doubt it’s higher prices. There needs to be structural change in the relationship between producers and corporate buyers.

Kevin R
Kevin R
1 year ago

Good Lord, this must be the first time in my life I find myself agreeing with Clarkson on something…
Wholly agree with the writer, though the price of food is indeed a thorny issue with the cost of living skyrocketing and more and more people using food banks.
James Rebanks has written very intelligently on this subject in his book ‘English Pastoral’.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin R

I would add to that; ‘Field Work’ by Bella Bathurst. A terrific portrait of what farming life now is.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin R

I would add to that; ‘Field Work’ by Bella Bathurst. A terrific portrait of what farming life now is.

Kevin R
Kevin R
1 year ago

Good Lord, this must be the first time in my life I find myself agreeing with Clarkson on something…
Wholly agree with the writer, though the price of food is indeed a thorny issue with the cost of living skyrocketing and more and more people using food banks.
James Rebanks has written very intelligently on this subject in his book ‘English Pastoral’.

Trevor Q
Trevor Q
1 year ago

It is slowly happening, at least in meat sales. We rarely buy any meat from a supermarket and there are some good farm shops nearby where meat is all grass fed and far far better than that sold in a supermarket and not usually more expensive. The big problem is lack of local abattoirs apparently. But I am lucky in that I live close to a lot of farms in a grazing area. There is a lack of a coherent marketing and distribution system.

Trevor Q
Trevor Q
1 year ago

It is slowly happening, at least in meat sales. We rarely buy any meat from a supermarket and there are some good farm shops nearby where meat is all grass fed and far far better than that sold in a supermarket and not usually more expensive. The big problem is lack of local abattoirs apparently. But I am lucky in that I live close to a lot of farms in a grazing area. There is a lack of a coherent marketing and distribution system.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

So where is the NFU? The public needs cheaper food, the farmers need more for their produce and the people taking all the money are the distributors.

In a world in which Amazon exists
and huge numbers of people get their groceries delivered, why isn’t the NFU coordinating a farmers co-op alternative distribution mechanism?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Because it’s much easier to blame the public and the government and stand their with your hand out.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The public doesn’t need cheaper food – they just need to change their spending priorities as stated. How many are paying ÂŁ50, ÂŁ60, ÂŁ80 /mth for the latest gadget and automtically expect to be able to go out to eat regularly, then moan about the price of a loaf. We need a common sense reset in so many ways ,,,

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Brown

Hear hear. There are a lot of I’m Alright Jackism comments from likely former Napster downloaders on here today.

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Brown

Hear hear. There are a lot of I’m Alright Jackism comments from likely former Napster downloaders on here today.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The EU has done all their strategic thinking for them since 1973.
This was why the COOP was founded by the Rochdale Pioneers in the 19th century. The COOP used to own farms.
Towards the end Aneuran Bevan’s life he was concerned that the Welfare State would result in the working class losing their resilience. The health insurance schemes started by Welsh Coal Miners, The CO-OP and Mechanics Institutes are all examples of the working class using their ingenuity to improve health, diet, reduce expenditure and improve education and training. This is why Keir Hardie said Sam Smiles ” Self- Help was Manual for Socialism “.The creation of the Welfare State provides employment for middle class clerks and the resilience and ingenuity of the Working Class declines.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Absolutely – send the old and poor into the workhouse where they belong!

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Your sarcasm is misplaced. I don’t think Charles is advocating returning to some Victorian-style punishment of the indigent. He is merely pointing out a difficult truth, namely that the Welfare State has indeed reduced people’s resilience, and has created a monstrous bureaucracy which sucks huge amounts of money out of our economy, and – because the bureaucrats aren’t handling their own money – is poorly policed, as the numerous accounts of fraud reveal. Creating a safety net that doesn’t lead to the lack of a sense of personal responsibility and to opportunities for fraud is very difficult, but we seem to have got it wrong. My father’s family went through hard times, but ‘going on the parish’ was unthinkable for them, and that attitude was the making of them.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

He talks about the ‘creation of the welfare state’, not its management. And anecdotal ‘accounts of fraud’ are not exactly proof are they; no system is perfect and there will always be fraud – what percentage of the ‘welfare state’ is lost to fraud? I imagine way less than the amount of PPE expenditure through ‘VIP channels’ in the covid issue, but again that is just conjecture – do you have figures for welfare fraud? And in what way is it ‘poorly policed’? From what I read, again not proof but interesting and indeed possibly biased, the policing of welfare payments is overly severe.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Well, Charles talks simply about ‘the Welfare state’, which would cover both its creation and its operation. On fraud: DWP figures give the overpayment of benefits in 2022 as 4%, which doesn’t sound much, though it amounted to £8.6 billion, and, of course, won’t capture cases of fraud which went undetected, or cases of ‘legitimate’ overpayments where deliberate fraud was not involved. For example, as a volunteer I visited an elderly lady who had limited sight, and had been encouraged by the medics to register as blind. That led to her getting pension credit, which is a ‘passporting’ benefit, meaning that she was not subject to means testing, although benefit recipients with assets above a certain amount are supposed to declare them. A DWP official visited her, at my suggestion, and confirmed that she could go on claiming all her benefits. Her bank account showed a healthy 6-figure balance, and she made a nice profit on her benefits every month. She was a very honest person, but our strange system allowed this systemic overpayment to continue. In another case, the daughter of a friend got tired of her perfectly decent, well-behaved husband, and so left him and took their child away, and secured housing from the local authority rather than keep the family together and benefit from their shared house. I’ve encountered several other cases of ‘legitimate’ but unwarranted benefit claiming. The Welfare State is both a wonderful and a terrible thing. Inevitably, if you feel that ‘the State’ will provide something for you, you will be less inclined to get it through your own efforts, even if you are able to do so.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Well, Charles talks simply about ‘the Welfare state’, which would cover both its creation and its operation. On fraud: DWP figures give the overpayment of benefits in 2022 as 4%, which doesn’t sound much, though it amounted to £8.6 billion, and, of course, won’t capture cases of fraud which went undetected, or cases of ‘legitimate’ overpayments where deliberate fraud was not involved. For example, as a volunteer I visited an elderly lady who had limited sight, and had been encouraged by the medics to register as blind. That led to her getting pension credit, which is a ‘passporting’ benefit, meaning that she was not subject to means testing, although benefit recipients with assets above a certain amount are supposed to declare them. A DWP official visited her, at my suggestion, and confirmed that she could go on claiming all her benefits. Her bank account showed a healthy 6-figure balance, and she made a nice profit on her benefits every month. She was a very honest person, but our strange system allowed this systemic overpayment to continue. In another case, the daughter of a friend got tired of her perfectly decent, well-behaved husband, and so left him and took their child away, and secured housing from the local authority rather than keep the family together and benefit from their shared house. I’ve encountered several other cases of ‘legitimate’ but unwarranted benefit claiming. The Welfare State is both a wonderful and a terrible thing. Inevitably, if you feel that ‘the State’ will provide something for you, you will be less inclined to get it through your own efforts, even if you are able to do so.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

He talks about the ‘creation of the welfare state’, not its management. And anecdotal ‘accounts of fraud’ are not exactly proof are they; no system is perfect and there will always be fraud – what percentage of the ‘welfare state’ is lost to fraud? I imagine way less than the amount of PPE expenditure through ‘VIP channels’ in the covid issue, but again that is just conjecture – do you have figures for welfare fraud? And in what way is it ‘poorly policed’? From what I read, again not proof but interesting and indeed possibly biased, the policing of welfare payments is overly severe.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

The food in many corner shops is very expensive. The COOP was set up tp provide good quality food to the poor as cheaply as possible which was why it ended up buying farms.
The Mechanics Institutes enabled working men to study in the evening, improve their knowledge and skills and enter better paid employment. It is now almost impossible for people to study at evening school in order for Institution of Engineers ( Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, etc)and University of London Extra Mural degrees.Nowadays evening school largely offers courses in peoples hobbies.
The Medical Insurance Schemes set up by the Welsh Miners required one to pay in before obtaining medical care.
If you want to know more about the Poor Laws read GM Trevelyan The Social History of England.In 1700, the largest expenditure in England and Wales was on the Poor Laws. It was the massive growth in population in previously sparsely populated areas such as Lancashire and Yorkshire during the Industrial Revolution which meant the parish based Poor Laws could not cope. In 1800 the population of Bradford was about 6,000 and 120,000 in 1850.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Your sarcasm is misplaced. I don’t think Charles is advocating returning to some Victorian-style punishment of the indigent. He is merely pointing out a difficult truth, namely that the Welfare State has indeed reduced people’s resilience, and has created a monstrous bureaucracy which sucks huge amounts of money out of our economy, and – because the bureaucrats aren’t handling their own money – is poorly policed, as the numerous accounts of fraud reveal. Creating a safety net that doesn’t lead to the lack of a sense of personal responsibility and to opportunities for fraud is very difficult, but we seem to have got it wrong. My father’s family went through hard times, but ‘going on the parish’ was unthinkable for them, and that attitude was the making of them.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

The food in many corner shops is very expensive. The COOP was set up tp provide good quality food to the poor as cheaply as possible which was why it ended up buying farms.
The Mechanics Institutes enabled working men to study in the evening, improve their knowledge and skills and enter better paid employment. It is now almost impossible for people to study at evening school in order for Institution of Engineers ( Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, etc)and University of London Extra Mural degrees.Nowadays evening school largely offers courses in peoples hobbies.
The Medical Insurance Schemes set up by the Welsh Miners required one to pay in before obtaining medical care.
If you want to know more about the Poor Laws read GM Trevelyan The Social History of England.In 1700, the largest expenditure in England and Wales was on the Poor Laws. It was the massive growth in population in previously sparsely populated areas such as Lancashire and Yorkshire during the Industrial Revolution which meant the parish based Poor Laws could not cope. In 1800 the population of Bradford was about 6,000 and 120,000 in 1850.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Nowadays, what is “working class”?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

If you dont know, you won’t understand the simple answer.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

If you dont know, you won’t understand the simple answer.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Absolutely – send the old and poor into the workhouse where they belong!

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Nowadays, what is “working class”?

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The NFU – and the government and the rest of the public sector – is incapable of providing a packaging, distribution and retail system that is as good as what we already have through the existing grocery retail system. It’s all very well to talk about middlemen and distributors in this way, but the fact is that most food consumers don’t live near enough to a farm to get even a tenth of what they need locally let alone everything. The grocery sector therefore solves a problem that nobody else does.

However, since you mention Amazon (and the usual suspects who hate big business are spitting nails at this point of course) it does seem quite likely that a great deal more localism could be brought into the UK grocery sector through the adoption of drone delivery and the use of platforms like Amazon to connect local farmers directly with consumers. The present model for farmers’ markets, after all, depends mostly upon people driving their 4x4s to a shop near a field somewhere, a practice which if expanded into a general consumer behaviour would gridlock the road system and cost us all a fortune – it doesn’t solve a problem, it just creates new problems.

Really what people would need is an app that allows them to order everything they need in one place and then have multiple separate farmers fulfil different parts of the order, using drones to deliver everything light enough, and vans for everyrthing else. If this sounds like a lot of trouble for people to be dealing with multiple deliveries etc, just keep in mind that large superstores where you can get everything under one roof are the solution to that problem, but we’re debating in a context where we’re saying that’s no longer good enough. So, new thinking is required, new consumer behaviour must be part of it, and most of all the farming industry must adapt.

I take Clarkson’s point that it would be nice if the government, in addition to exhorting farmers to adapt, would actually let them adapt once they’ve found a means of doing so, but that goes without saying at this point.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Because it’s much easier to blame the public and the government and stand their with your hand out.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The public doesn’t need cheaper food – they just need to change their spending priorities as stated. How many are paying ÂŁ50, ÂŁ60, ÂŁ80 /mth for the latest gadget and automtically expect to be able to go out to eat regularly, then moan about the price of a loaf. We need a common sense reset in so many ways ,,,

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The EU has done all their strategic thinking for them since 1973.
This was why the COOP was founded by the Rochdale Pioneers in the 19th century. The COOP used to own farms.
Towards the end Aneuran Bevan’s life he was concerned that the Welfare State would result in the working class losing their resilience. The health insurance schemes started by Welsh Coal Miners, The CO-OP and Mechanics Institutes are all examples of the working class using their ingenuity to improve health, diet, reduce expenditure and improve education and training. This is why Keir Hardie said Sam Smiles ” Self- Help was Manual for Socialism “.The creation of the Welfare State provides employment for middle class clerks and the resilience and ingenuity of the Working Class declines.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The NFU – and the government and the rest of the public sector – is incapable of providing a packaging, distribution and retail system that is as good as what we already have through the existing grocery retail system. It’s all very well to talk about middlemen and distributors in this way, but the fact is that most food consumers don’t live near enough to a farm to get even a tenth of what they need locally let alone everything. The grocery sector therefore solves a problem that nobody else does.

However, since you mention Amazon (and the usual suspects who hate big business are spitting nails at this point of course) it does seem quite likely that a great deal more localism could be brought into the UK grocery sector through the adoption of drone delivery and the use of platforms like Amazon to connect local farmers directly with consumers. The present model for farmers’ markets, after all, depends mostly upon people driving their 4x4s to a shop near a field somewhere, a practice which if expanded into a general consumer behaviour would gridlock the road system and cost us all a fortune – it doesn’t solve a problem, it just creates new problems.

Really what people would need is an app that allows them to order everything they need in one place and then have multiple separate farmers fulfil different parts of the order, using drones to deliver everything light enough, and vans for everyrthing else. If this sounds like a lot of trouble for people to be dealing with multiple deliveries etc, just keep in mind that large superstores where you can get everything under one roof are the solution to that problem, but we’re debating in a context where we’re saying that’s no longer good enough. So, new thinking is required, new consumer behaviour must be part of it, and most of all the farming industry must adapt.

I take Clarkson’s point that it would be nice if the government, in addition to exhorting farmers to adapt, would actually let them adapt once they’ve found a means of doing so, but that goes without saying at this point.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

So where is the NFU? The public needs cheaper food, the farmers need more for their produce and the people taking all the money are the distributors.

In a world in which Amazon exists
and huge numbers of people get their groceries delivered, why isn’t the NFU coordinating a farmers co-op alternative distribution mechanism?

Toby Aldrich
Toby Aldrich
1 year ago

Supermarket tactics are undoubtedly appalling. A farmer’s relationship with a supermarket is a Faustian pact where there is a complete asymmetry of dependency: the supermarket can do without any given farmer. The farmer is entirely beholden to the supermarket.
But, and it’s a big but, in their defence, supermarkets are hardly making huge profits. Sainsbury’s in 21/22 made ÂŁ730m on revenue of ÂŁ28bn. That’s a profit of 2.6%. They might behave like bandits, but they are not making out like bandits.
On the plus side, they have a business model where demand is relatively inelastic. As consumers, we have some choice, but we always have to eat.
I’m a big fan of shopping local etc, and buying from the farm gate, but at our local farm shop, a chicken (albeit an absolutely, superb, delicious chicken) is around ÂŁ15. In the supermarkets you can pick one up for a third of that or less. Quality and welfare are all very well, but people’s priorities are often at odds with that.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
1 year ago
Reply to  Toby Aldrich

Good point.

Supermarkets are often only making a 1% profit margin, driven by hyper competitive consumers, i.e. us, they are responding to what we demand from them. Just look at the success of the budget supermarkets. The article makes many good points but in identifying supermarkets as the principal cause of low prices, it’s wide of the mark.

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  Toby Aldrich

Well, it comes back in part to the Iphone and foreign holidays argument. What does the “must have every two years” iphone cost? On a weekly basis it’s probably about the same as 2 or 3 farm fresh chickens. Priorities priorities. One could deduce that the farmer is partly subsidizing one’s new Iphone.

Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago
Reply to  Toby Aldrich

They might have more profit if they didn’t buy up every parcel of land going to build new stores on……

The scale/mass cost benefits you are correct on, but the quality argument falls flat on things like wonky veg though. Nobody I have ever met has refused to buy, cook and eat a pepper because it’s not perfect aesthetically, but the supermarkets demand it and then sell wonky veg cheaper (or refuse to but wonky veg whilst also refusing the farmer the right to sell them to anyone else) than the perfect ones. Both are just as tasty and nutritional as the other, but there has been a construct created to scam higher prices out of people

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
1 year ago
Reply to  Toby Aldrich

Good point.

Supermarkets are often only making a 1% profit margin, driven by hyper competitive consumers, i.e. us, they are responding to what we demand from them. Just look at the success of the budget supermarkets. The article makes many good points but in identifying supermarkets as the principal cause of low prices, it’s wide of the mark.

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  Toby Aldrich

Well, it comes back in part to the Iphone and foreign holidays argument. What does the “must have every two years” iphone cost? On a weekly basis it’s probably about the same as 2 or 3 farm fresh chickens. Priorities priorities. One could deduce that the farmer is partly subsidizing one’s new Iphone.

Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago
Reply to  Toby Aldrich

They might have more profit if they didn’t buy up every parcel of land going to build new stores on……

The scale/mass cost benefits you are correct on, but the quality argument falls flat on things like wonky veg though. Nobody I have ever met has refused to buy, cook and eat a pepper because it’s not perfect aesthetically, but the supermarkets demand it and then sell wonky veg cheaper (or refuse to but wonky veg whilst also refusing the farmer the right to sell them to anyone else) than the perfect ones. Both are just as tasty and nutritional as the other, but there has been a construct created to scam higher prices out of people

Toby Aldrich
Toby Aldrich
1 year ago

Supermarket tactics are undoubtedly appalling. A farmer’s relationship with a supermarket is a Faustian pact where there is a complete asymmetry of dependency: the supermarket can do without any given farmer. The farmer is entirely beholden to the supermarket.
But, and it’s a big but, in their defence, supermarkets are hardly making huge profits. Sainsbury’s in 21/22 made ÂŁ730m on revenue of ÂŁ28bn. That’s a profit of 2.6%. They might behave like bandits, but they are not making out like bandits.
On the plus side, they have a business model where demand is relatively inelastic. As consumers, we have some choice, but we always have to eat.
I’m a big fan of shopping local etc, and buying from the farm gate, but at our local farm shop, a chicken (albeit an absolutely, superb, delicious chicken) is around ÂŁ15. In the supermarkets you can pick one up for a third of that or less. Quality and welfare are all very well, but people’s priorities are often at odds with that.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago

Just another symptom of the process of wealth being sucked inexorably upwards into the hands of a tiny minority. Food is cheap and its production centrally subsidised so that we have enough money left to rent iPhones/cars/houses
 and yet somehow we still need food banks. This relentless wealth extraction from the middle and working classes (pretty redundant terms, I admit) is Capital’s core purpose and there’s no political solution because our politicians are either useful fools, or in on it.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago

Just another symptom of the process of wealth being sucked inexorably upwards into the hands of a tiny minority. Food is cheap and its production centrally subsidised so that we have enough money left to rent iPhones/cars/houses
 and yet somehow we still need food banks. This relentless wealth extraction from the middle and working classes (pretty redundant terms, I admit) is Capital’s core purpose and there’s no political solution because our politicians are either useful fools, or in on it.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

I agree that Clarkson has a point (though not “for once” – he’s right a good deal more often than that), but it is not correct that supermarkets are solely to blame for this problem. What Clarkson also says on his show and which is not admitted here, is that foreign food imports undercut British products on price even after the import costs simply because of less burdensome regulation in the various countries we import from, combined with local subsidies that lower prices but not costs.

And this is not, as many people might complain at this point, due wholly or substantially to differing animal welfare standards. If you watch Clarkson’s Farm the constant theme is the massive cost of compliance with a regulatory regime that controls literally everything that a farmer does or might want to do on his own land. It wasn’t just the predictably Clarksonesque battle with Nimbys and the local planners that were a problem for him (as usual exacerbated by his make-good-television attitude), but the number of times Charlie Ireland had to explain, patiently and apologetically, that no, Jeremy can’t just do this or that, there’s a form to fill out, a report to submit, a standard that must be adhered to, a cost that must be paid.

And while Clarkson is vocal on his anti-Brexit views, the fact is that there is nothing about Brexit that prevents the UK farming sector being better off outside the EU, because the net effect of Brexit regulatory freedom was to stop paying into the CAP and at the same time accepting the CAP’s regulatory system that simply gave an unfair advantage to continental producers. It is true that the government has bungled the Brexit dividend, yes, but it is also true that this can be fixed: we can recognise that our present over-regulation is wrecking the farming sector, we can deal with imports that are only cheap because they benefit from subsidy practices that go against WTO principles, and we can introduce a UK-only subsidy system to protect farming as a strategic resource. All this is now possible under Brexit freedom and it is simply a matter of doing it right.

While it is tempting for some to buy into the evil big corporation narrative, it is really quite ludicrous to describe the UK grocery sector this way. This is a national success story in which these large companies have constantly invested in technology, supply chains etc to distribute more food with greater choice at lower costs on an ongoing basis. To complain about this is almost literally biting the hand that feeds you, and it is moronic. There are improvements in the supply chain that can be made that protect small businesses against predatory practices of course, nobody says otherwise, but a general attack upon the principles of food price deflation made possible by the large supermarkets is not one of them.

Finally, a similar argument could have been advanced last summer when retail energy companies were going bust because wholesale energy costs were going through the roof but their (price-capped) revenues were staying the same. How popular would any policy have been that sought to protect retail energy companies in this way? This is a good example of one of those ideas that most people are willing to defend in principle but not to pay for when it comes to actually forking out their own money. The reality is that people will sympathise with farmers for as long as it doesn’t cost themselves anything – just like every other issue that gains social media prominence.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

I agree that Clarkson has a point (though not “for once” – he’s right a good deal more often than that), but it is not correct that supermarkets are solely to blame for this problem. What Clarkson also says on his show and which is not admitted here, is that foreign food imports undercut British products on price even after the import costs simply because of less burdensome regulation in the various countries we import from, combined with local subsidies that lower prices but not costs.

And this is not, as many people might complain at this point, due wholly or substantially to differing animal welfare standards. If you watch Clarkson’s Farm the constant theme is the massive cost of compliance with a regulatory regime that controls literally everything that a farmer does or might want to do on his own land. It wasn’t just the predictably Clarksonesque battle with Nimbys and the local planners that were a problem for him (as usual exacerbated by his make-good-television attitude), but the number of times Charlie Ireland had to explain, patiently and apologetically, that no, Jeremy can’t just do this or that, there’s a form to fill out, a report to submit, a standard that must be adhered to, a cost that must be paid.

And while Clarkson is vocal on his anti-Brexit views, the fact is that there is nothing about Brexit that prevents the UK farming sector being better off outside the EU, because the net effect of Brexit regulatory freedom was to stop paying into the CAP and at the same time accepting the CAP’s regulatory system that simply gave an unfair advantage to continental producers. It is true that the government has bungled the Brexit dividend, yes, but it is also true that this can be fixed: we can recognise that our present over-regulation is wrecking the farming sector, we can deal with imports that are only cheap because they benefit from subsidy practices that go against WTO principles, and we can introduce a UK-only subsidy system to protect farming as a strategic resource. All this is now possible under Brexit freedom and it is simply a matter of doing it right.

While it is tempting for some to buy into the evil big corporation narrative, it is really quite ludicrous to describe the UK grocery sector this way. This is a national success story in which these large companies have constantly invested in technology, supply chains etc to distribute more food with greater choice at lower costs on an ongoing basis. To complain about this is almost literally biting the hand that feeds you, and it is moronic. There are improvements in the supply chain that can be made that protect small businesses against predatory practices of course, nobody says otherwise, but a general attack upon the principles of food price deflation made possible by the large supermarkets is not one of them.

Finally, a similar argument could have been advanced last summer when retail energy companies were going bust because wholesale energy costs were going through the roof but their (price-capped) revenues were staying the same. How popular would any policy have been that sought to protect retail energy companies in this way? This is a good example of one of those ideas that most people are willing to defend in principle but not to pay for when it comes to actually forking out their own money. The reality is that people will sympathise with farmers for as long as it doesn’t cost themselves anything – just like every other issue that gains social media prominence.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago

You posit the real reasons for the Farmer losing out:
“… farmers or growers received less than 1% of the profit after the deductions of intermediaries and retailers.”
“Grocery retail in the UK is dominated by supermarkets, which take over 95% of consumer spending on food.”
“These super supermarkets are making super profits, despite inflation and the cost-of-living crisis: Sainsbury’s is expecting ÂŁ690 million this financial year, while Tesco expects retail-adjusted operating profit in its 2022-23 financial year to be ÂŁ2.4-2.5 billion.”
“That benevolent two-for-one offer on punnets of strawberries? Behind the label are thousands of farmers who signed a contract to deliver strawberries without a price being set.”
“… the supermarket’s habit of foisting all risk onto the farmer. If a supermarket over-orders, guess who picks up the bill?”
“in 20% of cancellations, the farmer receives no compensation from the supermarket.”
“Farmers tend not to complain to their supermarket or the dreaded middle man, for fear of retribution.”
And yet you reach the conclusion that we, the consumers, ought to pay more?

Last edited 1 year ago by Paddy Taylor
S Wilkinson
S Wilkinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Exactly. We could be paying less AND farmers earning more!
The layers of ‘brokers’ skim off their ‘fees’ between producers and consumers.
But how to change it?
I suspect that many who happily spend considerable time and effort on getting their next iPhone or shopping around for their next foreign holiday or indeed walking to their preferred coffee outlet would baulk at the inconvenience of having to shop as everybody did pre supermarket.

Martin Rossol
Martin Rossol
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Consumers don’t want [won’t buy] the crooked carrot; the apple with minor bruise; the slightly over-ripe tomato. Consumers want the ability to “return” anything that didn’t quite suit their fancy; and grocers will do it, but the local market, maybe not so much? I do believe it is more of a structural problem, but not sure it is much different for many of the goods we purchase in the 1st World. [How much of the profit of EV goes to the child labor who helps mine the rare-earth metals necessary?]. It is not a simple issue- and I don’t intend to accuse anyone of saying it is. BTW. I used to milk cows [in the US] but the 70-90 hr weeks were killers.

S Wilkinson
S Wilkinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Exactly. We could be paying less AND farmers earning more!
The layers of ‘brokers’ skim off their ‘fees’ between producers and consumers.
But how to change it?
I suspect that many who happily spend considerable time and effort on getting their next iPhone or shopping around for their next foreign holiday or indeed walking to their preferred coffee outlet would baulk at the inconvenience of having to shop as everybody did pre supermarket.

Martin Rossol
Martin Rossol
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Consumers don’t want [won’t buy] the crooked carrot; the apple with minor bruise; the slightly over-ripe tomato. Consumers want the ability to “return” anything that didn’t quite suit their fancy; and grocers will do it, but the local market, maybe not so much? I do believe it is more of a structural problem, but not sure it is much different for many of the goods we purchase in the 1st World. [How much of the profit of EV goes to the child labor who helps mine the rare-earth metals necessary?]. It is not a simple issue- and I don’t intend to accuse anyone of saying it is. BTW. I used to milk cows [in the US] but the 70-90 hr weeks were killers.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago

You posit the real reasons for the Farmer losing out:
“… farmers or growers received less than 1% of the profit after the deductions of intermediaries and retailers.”
“Grocery retail in the UK is dominated by supermarkets, which take over 95% of consumer spending on food.”
“These super supermarkets are making super profits, despite inflation and the cost-of-living crisis: Sainsbury’s is expecting ÂŁ690 million this financial year, while Tesco expects retail-adjusted operating profit in its 2022-23 financial year to be ÂŁ2.4-2.5 billion.”
“That benevolent two-for-one offer on punnets of strawberries? Behind the label are thousands of farmers who signed a contract to deliver strawberries without a price being set.”
“… the supermarket’s habit of foisting all risk onto the farmer. If a supermarket over-orders, guess who picks up the bill?”
“in 20% of cancellations, the farmer receives no compensation from the supermarket.”
“Farmers tend not to complain to their supermarket or the dreaded middle man, for fear of retribution.”
And yet you reach the conclusion that we, the consumers, ought to pay more?

Last edited 1 year ago by Paddy Taylor
Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

This is not new. Zola was on to it over 130 years ago with La Terre. Back then honest French farmers were being priced out of their farms by cheap American grain.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

A great novel. Most memorable was his description of the farmers reactions to a downpour after a prolonged period of drought.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

A great novel. Most memorable was his description of the farmers reactions to a downpour after a prolonged period of drought.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

This is not new. Zola was on to it over 130 years ago with La Terre. Back then honest French farmers were being priced out of their farms by cheap American grain.

Abe Stamm
Abe Stamm
1 year ago

I’d like to know how much grain and corn has been planted, harvested and shipped to market from Ukraine during the last year compared to prior years. I’d like to know if the 270,000 acres of farmland that Bill Gates has accumulated are working farms, or is he keeping them permanantly fallow and unproductive? I’d like to know how much of our global agricultural production is being diverted to rich countries that can bid the highest, to the detriment of poorer nations. I’d like to know the overall percentage drop in global crop yields that have been effected by the reduction in fertilizer use among farmers who can’t afford to buy it in normal quantities (or at all), or on farms that are being mandated to use less of it by quasi-green government mandates.
Food inflation is here to stay it seems. In the United States were told not to complain about eggs costing 100% more than they did a year ago…the logic being that 2 fried eggs cooked at home only cost $1 when an inflated carton of eggs is currently $6 a dozen. I don’t find that logic comforting.
I’m told that people in Africa are starving right now due to a reduction in global food supplies…not hungry, but starving. The mainstream media doesn’t seem to cover this. I guess not all Black Lives Matter…just those who live in developed Western nations.

Last edited 1 year ago by Abe Stamm
Abe Stamm
Abe Stamm
1 year ago

I’d like to know how much grain and corn has been planted, harvested and shipped to market from Ukraine during the last year compared to prior years. I’d like to know if the 270,000 acres of farmland that Bill Gates has accumulated are working farms, or is he keeping them permanantly fallow and unproductive? I’d like to know how much of our global agricultural production is being diverted to rich countries that can bid the highest, to the detriment of poorer nations. I’d like to know the overall percentage drop in global crop yields that have been effected by the reduction in fertilizer use among farmers who can’t afford to buy it in normal quantities (or at all), or on farms that are being mandated to use less of it by quasi-green government mandates.
Food inflation is here to stay it seems. In the United States were told not to complain about eggs costing 100% more than they did a year ago…the logic being that 2 fried eggs cooked at home only cost $1 when an inflated carton of eggs is currently $6 a dozen. I don’t find that logic comforting.
I’m told that people in Africa are starving right now due to a reduction in global food supplies…not hungry, but starving. The mainstream media doesn’t seem to cover this. I guess not all Black Lives Matter…just those who live in developed Western nations.

Last edited 1 year ago by Abe Stamm
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Where does one start? The suburban ToilTories have been almost criminally woeful in any support, let alone understanding of our farming industry, and their vomit inducing pandering to the eco sandaloids, so imposing costs on farming is beyond description: The mess of the EU/post EU inertia just adds to the problems. We should and can be self sufficient AND an exporter of foodstuff, and the power of supermarkets is absolutely not, as The Government would claim ” free market” economics.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

When was the UK last self-sufficient in food? I suspect a couple of hundred years ago so how do we manage that now? There ain’t enough land to come anywhere near, surely?

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Why do you want the UK to be self-sufficient? Are you self-sufficient, or do you go to the shops?

Last edited 1 year ago by Christian Moon
Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

UK PLC needs to be self sufficient in all respects possible so that we cannot be blackmailed/held to ransome by bad actors. We might have to tighten our belts at some stage if push comes to shove and the cost of flying YOUR favourite food around the world becomes too high due to lack of aircraft/fuel.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

I think that you are asking the wrong person here – I don’t! Although it would be nice if we could be it doesn’t really make economic sense.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

UK PLC needs to be self sufficient in all respects possible so that we cannot be blackmailed/held to ransome by bad actors. We might have to tighten our belts at some stage if push comes to shove and the cost of flying YOUR favourite food around the world becomes too high due to lack of aircraft/fuel.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

I think that you are asking the wrong person here – I don’t! Although it would be nice if we could be it doesn’t really make economic sense.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

People in the UK are growing various foods in the most amazing non-farm places and makin a profit. The big hydroponic producers are coming “on stream” despite the NIMBYs who tried to stop them.Foods such as Quorn need no farm at all. The UK could become self-sufficient quite soon if the nay-sayer self interested were to be silenced for the good of the country as a whole.

Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Quorn is a mould grown on fungi, it’s not real food please leave it out of this discussion.

Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

Quorn is a mould grown on fungi, it’s not real food please leave it out of this discussion.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Why do you want the UK to be self-sufficient? Are you self-sufficient, or do you go to the shops?

Last edited 1 year ago by Christian Moon
Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

People in the UK are growing various foods in the most amazing non-farm places and makin a profit. The big hydroponic producers are coming “on stream” despite the NIMBYs who tried to stop them.Foods such as Quorn need no farm at all. The UK could become self-sufficient quite soon if the nay-sayer self interested were to be silenced for the good of the country as a whole.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

When was the UK last self-sufficient in food? I suspect a couple of hundred years ago so how do we manage that now? There ain’t enough land to come anywhere near, surely?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Where does one start? The suburban ToilTories have been almost criminally woeful in any support, let alone understanding of our farming industry, and their vomit inducing pandering to the eco sandaloids, so imposing costs on farming is beyond description: The mess of the EU/post EU inertia just adds to the problems. We should and can be self sufficient AND an exporter of foodstuff, and the power of supermarkets is absolutely not, as The Government would claim ” free market” economics.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

When someone is working long unsocial hours, perhaps on night shift, such as cleaners, security guards, maintenance staff in utility companies; a long way away from large supermarkets; perhaps using public transport and buying food from the corner shop, it tends to be very expensive; especially that which is fresh.
This is why Orwell was unique, he was an upper middle class intellectual who experienced the daily struggles of the poor.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

When someone is working long unsocial hours, perhaps on night shift, such as cleaners, security guards, maintenance staff in utility companies; a long way away from large supermarkets; perhaps using public transport and buying food from the corner shop, it tends to be very expensive; especially that which is fresh.
This is why Orwell was unique, he was an upper middle class intellectual who experienced the daily struggles of the poor.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross
1 year ago

Food, as a proportion of family-budget, has indeed decreased in size, but not entirely because of reasons enumerated in this excellent article. It’s very largely as a result of many other items grossly inflating their dubious “value”. How much have *taxes* increased in the last half-century? Insurance? The cost of over-management?
When the expense of government (eg.) doubles or triples, of course the size of every other slice of pie shrinks.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard Ross
Richard Ross
Richard Ross
1 year ago

Food, as a proportion of family-budget, has indeed decreased in size, but not entirely because of reasons enumerated in this excellent article. It’s very largely as a result of many other items grossly inflating their dubious “value”. How much have *taxes* increased in the last half-century? Insurance? The cost of over-management?
When the expense of government (eg.) doubles or triples, of course the size of every other slice of pie shrinks.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard Ross
Kevin Dee
Kevin Dee
1 year ago

I agree cheap food is a bad deal for farmers, animals, environment and peoples health. I don’t think free market economics has worked in this industry.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin Dee

UK farming is heavily subsidised , as it’s EU farming.
It hasn’t been in a free market for generations.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

So, all will be well now that Brexit has happened? Ha ha

Kevin Dee
Kevin Dee
1 year ago

Good point… free trade more specifically isn’t really working imho

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

So, all will be well now that Brexit has happened? Ha ha

Kevin Dee
Kevin Dee
1 year ago

Good point… free trade more specifically isn’t really working imho

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin Dee

Free markets don’t work for the consumer without rules to protect the consumer. Capital’s core mission is to destroy all competition and achieve a monopoly. Short of that, a cartel will do nicely. Helpful politicians are a key component.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin Dee

UK farming is heavily subsidised , as it’s EU farming.
It hasn’t been in a free market for generations.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin Dee

Free markets don’t work for the consumer without rules to protect the consumer. Capital’s core mission is to destroy all competition and achieve a monopoly. Short of that, a cartel will do nicely. Helpful politicians are a key component.

Kevin Dee
Kevin Dee
1 year ago

I agree cheap food is a bad deal for farmers, animals, environment and peoples health. I don’t think free market economics has worked in this industry.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

Generally the portion of spend devoted to food in the UK has been decreasing. According to the ONS in 1957 the spend was 33%, and now it is 16% Of course it depends where you are on the income scale, so it will be more for some than others, but the trend in food prices has been down in the last 60+ years that statistics have been collected.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

Generally the portion of spend devoted to food in the UK has been decreasing. According to the ONS in 1957 the spend was 33%, and now it is 16% Of course it depends where you are on the income scale, so it will be more for some than others, but the trend in food prices has been down in the last 60+ years that statistics have been collected.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

“For once, Jeremy Clarkson is right”
I’m inclined to think that Jeremy Clarkson is right more often than he is wrong – though I recognise the risk to any metropolitan journalist’s career and social media presence of actually saying so.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

“For once, Jeremy Clarkson is right”
I’m inclined to think that Jeremy Clarkson is right more often than he is wrong – though I recognise the risk to any metropolitan journalist’s career and social media presence of actually saying so.

Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago

Food isn’t too cheap, the supermarket cartels and grain barons squeeze the producers and the consumers to death. Food can stay as it is, the supermarkets need to take a lesser slice and pay the producer more

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonny Stud

How are you going to achieve that? I’ll guarantee you this: any attempt to introduce social justice principles into supermarket supply chains will simply destroy investment and lead to poorer choice and higher prices over time, even though it might throw a few short term benefits the way of farmers. Then of course, we’re all stuck – forever – with the newly added layer of bureaucracy that is set up to “fix” the problem, which then merely entrenches it as the primary means of its own survival.

As to the claim that consumers are also squeezed by the supermarkets, this is fairly obviously just not true. If anything they’ve succeeded in stuffing us so full of extra food calories on the cheap that our health services can’t keep up.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonny Stud

How are you going to achieve that? I’ll guarantee you this: any attempt to introduce social justice principles into supermarket supply chains will simply destroy investment and lead to poorer choice and higher prices over time, even though it might throw a few short term benefits the way of farmers. Then of course, we’re all stuck – forever – with the newly added layer of bureaucracy that is set up to “fix” the problem, which then merely entrenches it as the primary means of its own survival.

As to the claim that consumers are also squeezed by the supermarkets, this is fairly obviously just not true. If anything they’ve succeeded in stuffing us so full of extra food calories on the cheap that our health services can’t keep up.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago

Food isn’t too cheap, the supermarket cartels and grain barons squeeze the producers and the consumers to death. Food can stay as it is, the supermarkets need to take a lesser slice and pay the producer more

Henry Mayhew
Henry Mayhew
1 year ago

I have seen a few village halls start to sell groceries on Saturday mornings. My mum always goes up to hers on a Saturday. I get most of my food on Saturdays and Sundays either in markets in Hackney. It is true that there are a lot of BBC executives and NHS media team types milling about but the food is worth it. Different price to the village halls of course. Brace of plucked partridges yesterday, ÂŁ8.50, which is not bad for Hackney.

Henry Mayhew
Henry Mayhew
1 year ago

I have seen a few village halls start to sell groceries on Saturday mornings. My mum always goes up to hers on a Saturday. I get most of my food on Saturdays and Sundays either in markets in Hackney. It is true that there are a lot of BBC executives and NHS media team types milling about but the food is worth it. Different price to the village halls of course. Brace of plucked partridges yesterday, ÂŁ8.50, which is not bad for Hackney.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Food (especially meat), garments and air travel all should be more expensive.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

please elaborate?

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Fine, but you have to justify why. And by that I mean that you have to explain why the massive fall in living standards this represents is something that should be accepted by all of us.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

please elaborate?

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Fine, but you have to justify why. And by that I mean that you have to explain why the massive fall in living standards this represents is something that should be accepted by all of us.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Food (especially meat), garments and air travel all should be more expensive.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Farmers in the UK are among the most pampered parasites in society, even worse than the dreaded Miners used to be.
They have been in receipt of ludicrously generous subsidies since 1945, if not before.

If they cannot farm without subsidies they shouldn’t be farming in the first place.

Many, including the author are vocational farmers, who have made a lifestyle choice to live in the hills of Herefordshire and expect the rest of us to indulge them. This nonsense has been going on since the Corn Laws and it is time it was ended.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Aidan Anabetting
Aidan Anabetting
1 year ago

It seems you are more of a Whig rather than a Tory. That divide seems to be perennial.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

As the owner of a small 900 acre farm (through not fault of my own), valued at ÂŁ10,000 per acre I am MUD rich but CASH poor.
However I can at least it dump on my undeserving offspring IHT* free, which is some compensation.

(*Inheritance Tax.)

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

As the owner of a small 900 acre farm (through not fault of my own), valued at ÂŁ10,000 per acre I am MUD rich but CASH poor.
However I can at least it dump on my undeserving offspring IHT* free, which is some compensation.

(*Inheritance Tax.)

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Those pampered miners – hewing coal underground, risking life and limb and dying early of lung disease. They didn’t know how lucky they were!

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

They knew exactly how lucky they were. That’s why they objected so strongly when Mrs T said they didn’t have to do it any more.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

They knew exactly how lucky they were. That’s why they objected so strongly when Mrs T said they didn’t have to do it any more.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

The Brexit project frees up the Brexit elite to finish off the farming sector in the UK. The “pampered parasites” view is extant in the Brexit govt. Subsidies are being phased out, and one-sided, foreign-favouring trade deals will finish off most of the UK’s farming sector. Of course, it would have been more honourable to have been honest with the farmers prior to Brexit, instead of lying to them about the benefits of Brexit lol.  

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

May I correct you.
Subsidies are being reduced but not “phased out”.

Thanks to Brexit we are at least free of the wretched CAP* a device purely designed to keep French farmers in clover for perpetuity.

(* Common Agricultural Policy.)

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

May I correct you.
Subsidies are being reduced but not “phased out”.

Thanks to Brexit we are at least free of the wretched CAP* a device purely designed to keep French farmers in clover for perpetuity.

(* Common Agricultural Policy.)

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

But what is the alternative?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Break the SUPERMARKET Oligarchy.
The US did it with its anti-trust legislation eons ago.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

Unless we know how the prices are arrived at it will be difficult to make savings.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

The price of goods is arrived at according to “what the market will bear”. It has little to do with production or developing cost.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

The price of goods is arrived at according to “what the market will bear”. It has little to do with production or developing cost.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago

Unless we know how the prices are arrived at it will be difficult to make savings.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Break the SUPERMARKET Oligarchy.
The US did it with its anti-trust legislation eons ago.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Do you dispute his figures then? If so please come up with alternative statistics. If not then your statement is ridiculous.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Could you please be more specific?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Could you please be more specific?

Aidan Anabetting
Aidan Anabetting
1 year ago

It seems you are more of a Whig rather than a Tory. That divide seems to be perennial.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Those pampered miners – hewing coal underground, risking life and limb and dying early of lung disease. They didn’t know how lucky they were!

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

The Brexit project frees up the Brexit elite to finish off the farming sector in the UK. The “pampered parasites” view is extant in the Brexit govt. Subsidies are being phased out, and one-sided, foreign-favouring trade deals will finish off most of the UK’s farming sector. Of course, it would have been more honourable to have been honest with the farmers prior to Brexit, instead of lying to them about the benefits of Brexit lol.  

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

But what is the alternative?

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Do you dispute his figures then? If so please come up with alternative statistics. If not then your statement is ridiculous.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Farmers in the UK are among the most pampered parasites in society, even worse than the dreaded Miners used to be.
They have been in receipt of ludicrously generous subsidies since 1945, if not before.

If they cannot farm without subsidies they shouldn’t be farming in the first place.

Many, including the author are vocational farmers, who have made a lifestyle choice to live in the hills of Herefordshire and expect the rest of us to indulge them. This nonsense has been going on since the Corn Laws and it is time it was ended.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE