Food price inflation could hit double digits soon as the UK’s biggest poultry supplier today (14) has warned that food in Britain is “too cheap” and rising inflation is “decaying the food sector’s supply chain”.
Ranjit Singh Boparan- the owner of Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group- in a strongly-worded public statement has called on to “reset” the food prices so that they reflect the true cost of production.
“How can it be right that a whole chicken costs less than a pint of beer? You’re looking at a different world where the shopper pays more,” said Boparan.
“The days when you could feed a family of four with a £3 chicken are coming to an end. We need transparent, honest pricing. This is a reset and we need to spell out what this will mean,” he said.
“Food is too cheap, there’s no point avoiding the issue. In relative terms, a chicken today is cheaper to buy than it was 20 years ago.”
Boparan, whose facilities in the UK and Europe process more than 10 million birds a week and produce about a third of all the poultry products consumed, said Britain is entering a new era, one in which labour shortages and commodity price rises would mean less choice and higher prices.
Alongside wage increases for HGV drivers, who remain in short supply, fuel costs are now at their highest rate since 2013.
The group’s 600 farms and 16 factories, which employ 18,000 people, are facing soaring energy costs, which Boparan said had risen by between 450 per cent and 550 per cent on last year.
He said wages were up 15 per cent as were feed costs for the poultry while other inputs, including diet supplements, wood shavings for litter, disinfectants and veterinary costs were up as much as 20 per cent.
“Inflation is decaying the food sector’s supply chain infrastructure and its ability to operate as normal. That’s from farm to your plate,” said Boparan, who is nicknamed the Chicken King because of his position in supplying many major high street retailers.
“We really have to start thinking differently about what our food priorities are and what they cost,” Boparan said.
Welcoming temporary seasonal visas for poultry workers, which the government has brought in to ensure Christmas turkeys are ready for the festive season, Boparan said that in the longer term “less labour means less choice, core ranges, empty shelves and wage inflation, and this isn’t going to change”.
“We need to work with our supply chains and customers to solve these issues, but it will come at a cost.”
Chicken is the country’s most popular meat, with consumption far outstripping beef, lamb or pork. Any price rises are likely to have a disproportionate impact on lower income families.