Letter: Cheap food mantra

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The Independent Culture
Cheap food mantra

Sir: The Independent falls into line with the oft-repeated mantra that reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and reduced farm subsidies will deliver us the benefit of cheaper food (leading article, 22 February). Why should it? Farm gate prices have collapsed for most products in the last 18 months. Retail prices are all but unchanged. How can this be?

A very large proportion of the retail price for much of what we eat is the processing, packing and retailing. A loaf of bread costing pounds 1 will have no more than 10p of wheat in it. The price of wheat might halve, but bread will come down by a maximum of 5 per cent.

The price of food is not determined by cost, but by what the market will stand. Food is cheaper in real terms than it has ever been; we now spend 11 per cent of our disposable income on food, compared with 33 per cent at the end of the Second World War. The food retailing sector now has very high barriers to entry, making true competition (which might push down prices) less possible.

There are all sorts of reasons to reform the CAP, but please don't offer cheaper food as one.

NICHOLAS TAPP

Director

St Nicholas Court Farms

Birchington, Kent

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