Why a supermarket price war is bad news for Britain’s ability to feed itself

The big four are cutting prices again and if farmers get less money, self-sufficiency in UK food production, now down to 60%, will continue to slide. Jay Rayner argues that this squeeze matters and could leave us all worse off

For consumers struggling with food bills, last week seemed to bring a glimmer of hope, as bad news for retailers promised good news on prices. Once again that leviathan of the high street, Tesco, reported appalling sales figures, down 3.1% from a year earlier. One million fewer customers are visiting the stores each week. Meanwhile the discounters, chains such as Aldi and Lidl, are cleaning up, with sales increases of an astonishing 35.9% and 22.5% respectively.

Earlier this year, as profits slumped, Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke announced £200m worth of price cuts. Last week analysts called for more. “Two hundred million in cuts is nothing,” said John Ibbotson, of consultants Retail Vision. “Clarke’s only option now is to get out the big bazooka and blow the competition away.” Spurred by sales down 7.1%, the worst for a generation, Morrison’s has also been offering bargains. A supermarket price war is under way, with Asda and Sainsbury’s piling in, which can only be good news for shoppers.

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