A Conservative MP has found the “worst” justification for food shortages so far by claiming they are in the “long-term interest” of the economy.
As driver shortfalls cause gaps to appear on supermarket shelves, West Dorset MP Chris Loder said it would be good news if supply chains snapped.
Speaking at a Tory conference fringe event yesterday, Loder labelled supermarkets “commercial predators” and said their decline would help local farmers.
Earlier this month, a dairy farmer was told to dump 6000 litres of milk because there were not enough drivers to collect it.
According to The Telegraph, business leaders called the MP’s arguments “parochial” and “ridiculous” and called on the government to sort out chaos in the supply chain.
Loder said: “It is in our mid and long-term interest that these logistics chains do break.
“It will mean the farmer down the street will be able to sell their milk in the village shop like they did decades ago.
“It is because these commercial predators – the supermarkets – have wiped that out and I’d like to see that come back.”
His comments were swiftly rebuffed by industry bosses, who warned that relying on local producers would not work in the 21st century and end up hurting consumers.
“The existing retail supply chain model has seen the proportion of household income spent on food fall enormously over recent decades whilst diversifying the range of products available,” a British Retail Consortium spokesman said.
“That has delivered an unparalleled increase in living standards and quality of life… it’s faintly ridiculous to claim the alternative.”
He added that the government “urgently needs to take action” to prop up supermarkets with visas for HGV drivers.
Boris Johnson has announced plans to issue 5000 visas, but some believe he should have created up to 100,000.
David Lindars, technical operations director at the British Meat Processors Association, described Loder’s claims as “farcical”.
He said: “When you look at the big four or five retailers, which the majority shop at, that’s where the bulk of food is purchased.
“From my point of view, there are no more local abattoirs… there was a local supply chain, there isn’t any more.”
Federation of Wholesale Distributors boss James Bielby added: “Of all the justifications for the current crisis, this is the worst one yet.
“We’re not back to this mythical golden age, and it’s disrespectful to the people who don’t live in rural areas near farms.”
Ahead of his Tory conference speech, Boris Johnson indicated that food shortages could last until Christmas.
Asked yesterday about the Chancellor’s warning of problems impacting the festive period, the Prime Minister said: “Rishi [Sunak] is invariably right in everything he says.”
The government could boost the number of visas issued to lorry drivers in an attempt to ease the country’s supply problems.
However, Johnson added that it was largely up to businesses to sort out the issues.