Your report from the Tory party conference cites Liz Truss’s view that the government is not responsible for food shortages in the shops (Boris Johnson: petrol crisis and pig cull part of necessary post-Brexit transition, 3 October). At the root of the predicament is the fact that this government feels no responsibility for our food supply.
In the absence of anything like a coherent national food policy, the task of feeding the nation has, for many decades, been outsourced to a handful of supermarkets. The result is a system driven by the profits of a small number of massive businesses. It’s a system based upon high volumes, low wages, hyper-processed foods and long, opaque supply chains. When it breaks down, there is no plan B.
It is a frustration for many of us working outside the industrialised food giants that governments accept their obligations in the arenas of employment, public health and environmental protection (albeit with mixed success), but then abdicate any responsibility for the food system, which has such a vast impact on all of them.
At Borough Market, we can see the benefits of sustainable food production, short supply chains and closer relationships between consumers and the people who feed them. We think British food producers should be able to make a living without reducing their standards, suppressing wages or damaging the environment. We think everyone should have access to high-quality, fresh, seasonal produce. But for that to happen, we need the value of sustainable producers and independent retailers to be recognised and supported. And that means Liz Truss and her colleagues accepting that our nation’s creaking, unbalanced food system is in urgent need of attention.