ARE YOU FED up because your weekly shop costs far more in Britain than it would in the United States? Are you similarly cross that the nice piece of open space near your home where you walk the dog is earmarked for a supermarket, and so you have joined the action group to stop it?

According to the big retailers, the Nimbys who have fought so successfully to stop supermarkets being built, and who have persuaded the Government to make it much harder to secure planning permission for stores, are to blame for the high cost of food in this country.

Buying food is not just a question of paying for the product itself. When we shop, we are also paying for the cost of distribution, the staff's wage packets, the cost of the building and the land it stands on.

Take a can of soup that costs 43p. Three-quarters of the price is the payment to suppliers. While Tesco, Safeway and the like use their huge buying power to negotiate low prices with suppliers, US rivals such as Kroger and Wal-Mart are far bigger. They buy in huge volumes from suppliers who themselves produce in huge volumes because of the sheer size of the US market.

Distribution costs are also higher in Britain due to the high taxes on fuel. In the US supermarket giants such as Kroger and Ahold can send their huge trucks across the country for a fraction of what it costs Tesco or Sainsbury here.

Occupation costs are another factor. German supermarkets are basic environments with brown boxes stacked on shelves. Retailers such as Aldi and Lidl can therefore charge lower prices because they are not spending money on upmarket delicatessen counters, creches and fancy lighting. In Britain, such costs put another penny on the price of soup.

Then there's land. The combination of strict planning regulations on out-of-town superstores and the scarcity of space means that land costs around double an equivalent plot in the US.

Another major cost is the wage bill - responsible for another 3p on the price.

Other important issues are environmental and food regulation concerns. For example, UK supermarkets buy pork and bacon from pig farmers who have to adhere to strict animal welfare laws. They could buy them cheaper elsewhere but would UK consumers be happy to buy the products?

The supermarkets say that you get what you pay for. And if that means swish, state-of-the-art stores, stocking environmentally friendly products, prices will be higher.

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