Is Jay Rayner An Idiot For Insisting That Food Is Too Cheap?
Families need to pay more for food and have become ‘far too used to paying too little’, Masterchef judge Jay Rayner told MPs today.
The food critic and author told a parliamentary committee that food was too cheap to support British farmers.
He said: ‘We pay too little. We’re far too used to paying too little. And the only way we have at our disposal, I think, to secure a robust food supply is by investing in British farming and that does mean consumers pay more and look for that label.’
There’s four sets of idiocy here.
The first is that no one at all is insisting that you must buy cheap food. If you want farmers to have more money you can quite happily go out and buy more expensive food: locally produced, organic, free range, whatever tickles your fantasy. If you really want to you can just stick some cash money through the farm gate.
The second is that a robust food supply is not achieved by relying upon the farmers of one country to supply it. You might have noticed that there’s not been any famines in the UK for the past century and a half or so. Which is about the same time that we’ve been importing a decent fraction of our food. The connection between these two being that when the weather makes the crops fail in this country, as it still does from time to time, we’ve got other places to get our food from.
The third is that the falling real price of food is one of the things that has made us all richer in recent decades. It really wasn’t all that long ago, within my lifetime, that food made up 30% of the average poor families’ monthly budget. It’s now more like 10%: freeing up money to be spent on other things, making us richer.
And finally, the fourth, is that if British farmers can’t make a profit doing farming this is the universe’s way of telling them to bugger off and do something else other than farming. In short, there’s just too many people trying to be farmers.
Yes, Jay Rayner is being an idiot here.