BRITAIN'S farmers are predicted to become as important to consumers as the retailers, following the exposure of the convoluted food chain thanks to the horsemeat scandal.
The forecast comes from the National Beef Association (NBA), which said that the days of cheap food are coming to an end.
NBA national director Chris Mallon said: “The slip-shod supermarket procurement that has been exposed by the horsemeat scandal is the result of short cuts being taken because after decades of food being easy to find, and easy to buy, it has suddenly become not just harder to secure but also more expensive.
“Most British retailers have still to appreciate that food, like oil, gas and metal, is already being traded as a global commodity and that the cheap food culture that has dominated the UK in particular over the past 30 years has already become outdated.
“World economies, as well as the world’s population are booming and one result is that tens of millions of new, middle-class consumers have suddenly been able to buy their way into the top tier of the market and UK supermarkets are struggling to secure the huge quantities of food they need at the prices they are used to paying.”
The NBA also predicts that competition for food will increase as the wealth grows and there is greater demand for products once reserved for rich western nations.
Mr Mallon said: “Membership of the world’s ‘Privileged Food Eaters Club’ is rocketing and it will not be long before the competition this creates at global level results in much higher prices and more restricted availability in the UK.
“Beef farmers, and those who grow staple crops like grain and potatoes, fruit, and other meats, can keep pace with current demand for home-produced food as long as we are paid more for our product than it costs to produce.
“However, we are certain that supplies of imported food will shrink because more will be sold to enthusiastic buyers in boom countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China and so more effort will have to be made to ensure that the UK produces more food than it does now.
“We are looking forward to this because it will at last signal that the UK, and its short-sighted retailers, has accepted that a secure domestic food supply is fundamental to the continued wellbeing of the UK economy and its people.”
He said that in the meantime, retailers must learn to accept that even higher food prices are inevitable and to ensure they stop taking an unrealistically cheap approach to day-to-day food procurement.