Farmers can't absorb the price increases
David Piccaver J E Piccaver & Co ,Norfolk House Farm, Lincolnshire Sir; Your editorial (The Grocer, 24 May, page 3) draws attention to food being highlighted as a major cause of inflation. Your contention that fuel costs are the principal driver of the headline inflation figure is absolutely right. The government ignores our industry except when inflationary pressures are around. What seems to be totally ignored is the considerable contribution the farming industry has made in food deflation over the last 20 years or so. This has been achieved by greater efficiency, new technology and higher-yielding plants. In previous articles in The Grocer you have highlighted that total consumer spend on food now makes up only about 10% of income, down from 14-15%. What really aggrieves me is the singular lack of any recognition of what has been achieved and the assumption that farmers can absorb the current level of price increases. Food shortages are one thing, but price increases of the magnitude we are experiencing now in fuel, labour, fertilisers and chemicals is another matter. This is particularly so in the fresh produce industry, which has seen very few, if any, price increases in this current season. The government has significantly reduced agronomy research in the UK ,putting all of its efforts into environmental projects. This is all very admirable, but it does not put food on plates. As a result, there is a serious lack of scientific research and a similar lack of the scientific skills needed to redress the balance and support growers and future UK food production. The government cannot have it both ways. I would suggest the lack of investment in science combined with the fact we have competitively produced food, means the government and the taxpayer have had a very good return on their investment up until now.