Recent attempts by manufacturers to raise the prices of popular foodstuffs have been met with condemnation and a firm rebuttal by the UK’s leading supermarkets. The ‘Marmitegate’ saga and the image of a jolly sea Captain attempting to raise household staples has left the public reeling in the wake of supposed Brexit-led higher costs of food commodities and raw materials. The irony being, that much of the weekly grocery shop is still sourced and produced in the UK, and hence, these increases seem premature.
Such pressure on the cost of living and the grocery basket index raise some difficult questions for the UK Government. Stimulating consumer spending while reconciling the cost of the weekly shop with the UK’s overall household budget, poses quite a conundrum. No government likes spiralling food inflation, so a delicate balance is needed to maintain affordable food for all.
The continued expansion of ‘food banks’ in the country is a clear indicator that this most basic of human needs is not being sufficiently met. There are many challenges for the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer in formulating this year’s Autumn Statement, as there are many constituents to please. However, one obvious route to reducing the cost of the weekly shop is to lower business rates – a constant cry from retailers large and small. The UK’s agri-food chain is worth an estimated £190b a year (Defra 2015), so the Chancellor’s attention here could reap great dividends. In the words of one of the country’s largest retailers “every little helps” and this one simple commitment could stimulate demand for much needed economic growth.