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A nation that cannot feed itself

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A nation that cannot feed itself

What do you think when you see rows of empty produce aisles in our supermarkets?

Some of you rage the word “Brexit” and severely damage key blood vessels. (It is a factor, but not the only one.)

Some of you talk with great knowledge about weather issues or supply chain problems.

And the salad-dodging crowd are relieved they don’t have to go through the routine of buying tomatoes and throwing them away four days later.

What I think when I see empty aisles is: what is wrong with this country? Why isn’t such a green and fertile land self-sufficient in food? Why are we flying in lettuce, for God’s sake.

To that point, a narrative has started to develop that looks like a clear PR issue for the grocers.

Mostly, they have won the hearts of the public. They were good in the Covid crisis. In the longer run, food these days is cheaper and better. They done well.

The alternative point of view was put well by Jay Rayner in The Observer at the weekend.

His point runs like this: “For decades the supermarket sector had been given a free run at our food supply chain by governments of both stripes. Just a dozen companies then controlled 95% of UK food retail and used that economic might to force such drastically tight deals on producers that many had gone out of business. Our self-sufficiency had withered.”

We outsourced management of our food to Tesco and the rest. Tesco just tried to do everything as low-cost as possible.

If you’re a politician you can’t say this: but food is just too cheap.

At the FT, Judith Evans kicks off spikily: “The UK may be the world’s sixth-largest economy, but that economy is unable to guarantee its citizens a salad.”

French shelves are full partly because the French pay suppliers properly, she notes.

It would be a brave supermarket CEO who addressed this directly, and conceded grocers may have a case to answer.

If food shortages keep happening, they won’t have any choice.

Press release of the day

If looming train and teachers strikes disrupt your work and create childcare problems, will you still be paid? Can you be sacked if you miss work due to strikes?

Good questions posed by Loch Associates, which also have answers.

Employers and employees shouldn’t abuse each other’s trust, is the short of it.

Stories that will keep rolling

1) Is Haleon justifying its status as the biggest London listing for a decade?

2) Will Microsoft look to up its stake in the LSEG?

3) What has been ITV’s most surprising hit?

4) Is Melrose in acquisition or disposal mode?


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