Trade and Agriculture (TAC) Commission chairman Tim Smith has said part of the body’s job is to stop future trade policy from making food more expensive.
The TAC was set up, and later made a statutory body, by Government in response to heavy pressure from farming groups and environmental NGOs who wanted to ensure the UK’s food production standards were protected in trade deals.
But Ministers quickly gave the Commission a much wider remit, asking it to ‘advance and protect consumer interests’ in the UK and developing countries and to identify and open up new export opportunities for agricultural products, among other things.
Mr Smith said the TAC had ‘distinguished very quickly’ between cheap food and affordability.
Speaking at the trade session of the online Oxford Farming Conference this week, he said: “Our concern is to ensure nothing we do in trade policy terms makes food more expensive.
“Price has been an important part of our consumer activity when we have been looking at the Commission’s work.
“The triangle we are trying to strike is what allows farmers and growers to have a profitable future which does not impact on the affordability of food or on other issues such as welfare or sustainability.”
James Bailey, executive director at Waitrose, also pointed out price was a key concern for retailers, including high-value ones, but warned any profits from food must be shared fairly down the supply chain.
“Even for customers who put quality first in their decision process, price is still always next,” he said.
“There is no such thing as a customer who does not care about price. There is no point designing a system which does not produce quality goods with the most efficient processes.
“In good processes, that profit margin in shared fairly across everyone involved in that process.
“There is no point working in a system which is unbalanced or where some part of the system cannot sustain itself.”