Consumers may cut back on eating out as budgets tighten, MPs told

09 November 2022 by
Consumers may cut back on eating out as budgets tighten, MPs told

Consumers may be less willing to eat out in the coming months due to tightening household budgets, MPs have been told.

Andrew Opie, director of food sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee yesterday (8 November) that people have changed shopping habits to make household incomes go further.

He said there could be "less eating out potentially going forwards" as the focus on budgeting could be felt "right through the supply chain".

Consumers are already looking for cheaper proteins and swapping red meat for chicken, Opie said.

He added: "Consumer food price inflation is around 15%. We do think it will go further, probably peak[ing] in the first part of next year."

MPs were told the challenges of food inflation, which is at its highest ever level since records began, have been compounded by a 30% increase in agricultural input costs, which has hit farmers hard.

The department for environment, food and rural affairs said this was due to rises in fertiliser and fuel prices, as well as the impact of the war in Ukraine.

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: "It's an extraordinary situation. [Farmers] say they have never witnessed anything like this at any time in living memory. Intensive sectors are facing a real hammering with avian influenza, the challenges of access to labour, rising energy costs, the war in Ukraine, and volatility in the gas market."

Production of tomatoes and cucumbers is at the lowest level since 1985, Batters said.

Three quarters of farmers have told the NFU that they plan to use less nitrogen fertiliser in livestock, which is expected to reduce the volume of milk produced.

Batters added: "It's not just about affordability. This is about availability. If we don't keep the primary production sector functioning, the more we shorten supply and the more we are going to drive food inflation."

Ed Barker, head of policy and external affairs at the Agricultural Industries Confederation, criticised the limited scope of the government's Energy Bill Relief Scheme, which has only guaranteed support until spring 2023.

He said: "We still have businesses waiting on a rebate. We need to know what happens beyond March, as a lot of agri-supply businesses are unable to price beyond then."

When asked about the main threat to food security, Barker replied that it was "certainty or the lack thereof".

Image: johan.lebedevski / Shutterstock

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