UK finance minister to meet food manufacturers to discuss high prices
LONDON (Reuters) - British Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt plans to raise concerns about the surge in food prices and discuss ways to ease the strain on families when he meets food manufacturers on Tuesday, his office said in a statement.
"High food prices are proving stubborn so we need to understand what’s driving that," Hunt said in the statement released by the Treasury on Monday.
His meeting comes weeks after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosted a food summit which was attended by farmers, suppliers, retailers and industry bodies to boost growth, innovation and sustainability in the sector.
The Treasury said Hunt also plans to meet the country's watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which last week promised to step up its work looking into grocery prices after food prices surged to a 46-year high in March.
Official data showed food prices in Britain were 19.1% higher in March than a year earlier, the biggest such rise since August 1977, while in April, grocery inflation was 17.3%, according to industry data.
"Food inflation disproportionately affects low-income households, who spend more of their income on food and are less able to swap what they would usually buy for cheaper alternatives," the statement said.
The government will consider updating pricing rules after the CMA review has concluded, the Treasury added.
Separately, a committee of British lawmakers are investigating the fairness of the country's food supply chain, seeking to understand why households are facing such prices.
“We believe food and drink price inflation is close to its peak, and food and drink manufacturers will continue to work hard to keep prices as low as possible,” Britain’s Food and Drink Federation CEO Karen Betts said in the Treasury statement.
(Reporting by Muvija M; Editing by Marguerita Choy)