Martin Kennedy makes a compelling point when drawing parallels between the UK’s reliance on imports of both energy and food, warning that we can’t afford to be “held to ransom” when it comes to feeding ourselves. If painful grocery price inflation of 17.3 per cent as reported most recently by Kantar was keeping pace with energy inflation of more than 40%, we would be in a right pickle indeed.

There is also a good deal of merit in the NFU Scotland president’s arguments around the value placed on what we eat. Hard-pressed consumers are paying more, yet primary producers are still struggling to make a living.

Continuing tomorrow in The Herald 👇


The Herald:

The fragilities that have been exposed within the system have prompted Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to call an emergency food security summit at which he will meet next week with industry bosses to discuss the threats to the UK’s food supply alongside stubbornly high rates of inflation.

If part of the solution is to grow more locally, then a way must be found to ensure farmers make a sustainable return on their crops and livestock.

According to independent farming charity Sustain, there would be little impact on the retail price of many products if producers were paid more. Its research published at the end of last year suggests that even a doubling of farmgate prices would have minor effect because current rates of pay are so low.

READ MORE: Higher food prices 'baked in' as shoppers seek inflationary relief

Sustain calculated that a 480g block of mild cheddar priced at £2.50 in the supermarket generates a total profit of 3.5p. Of this, the retailer typically gets 2.5p and the processor receives 0.96p.

That leaves a profit of less than 0.05p for the farmer, in addition to primary production costs of £1.48.

Sustain found much the same to be true for beefburgers, bread, apples and carrots, with the apple grower getting the highest percentage return of 1% or 3p of profit on the sale of a 1kg bag priced at £2.20.

READ MORE: Spiralling food prices threaten our ultimate energy source

Former MI5 director-general Baroness Manningham-Buller warned recently that what some have described as the “existential crisis” in farming threatens the UK’s national security, arguing that the issues facing producers must be addressed to avoid future global shocks.

“We need to acknowledge that we should produce as much of our own food as we can, with due regard to sustainability, and be able to export what we can,” she told members of the National Farmers’ Union in November.

“Several people [have] said that [food security] was about just getting a secure line of food from somewhere else…I’ve interpreted it differently.”