Shoppers can cope with soaring food prices and the cost of living crisis by choosing value brands in supermarkets, the environment secretary has suggested.
George Eustice, the Minister for Food and Agriculture, told Sky News that food prices were rising due to the knock-on effect of higher energy costs, driving up the costs of fertilizers and animal feed.
He said: “Generally what people are finding is opting for some of the value brands over the own brand products – they can actually contain and manage their family budget. This will undoubtedly put pressure on household budgets and of course it will also add to those high gasoline prices.
He argued that there was a ‘very, very competitive retail market with 10 major supermarkets and the four major ones competing very aggressively, especially on some of the everyday value items at lower cost to households, so things like spaghetti and ambient products – there’s a lot of competition to keep those prices low.”
“Where it gets harder is on things like chicken and poultry, and some fresh produce, where those increased feed costs end up being passed on to the system because those people are working on very thin margins. and that they have to pass on that cost,” Eustic added.
He also suggested that Elsie, the 77-year-old who said she was taking buses to keep warm, should go to her local council for help. Boris Johnson has previously come under fire for bragging about bringing free bus passes when confronted with the story of his struggles to heat his home.
Eustice told Sky News: “What would be my advice to Elsa (sic)? Well, my advice would be, you know, don’t stay on a bus all day trying to stay warm. My advice would be to seek help from the local authority.
Pat McFadden, a shadow Treasury minister, criticized Eustice’s comments as being “woefully out of touch with a government without a solution to the cost of living crisis facing working people”.
“People are seeing their wages go down, fuel and food prices go up, and families worry about how to make ends meet,” he said. “It’s time for the government to provide real help to people rather than comments that simply expose how little they understand about the real difficulties people are facing in paying their bills.”
Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain said: “These comments show that George Eustice and the Tories live in a parallel universe. Families and pensioners who cannot afford their weekly groceries need more help, not condescending advice from a distraught minister.
“It’s the harsh reality of Boris Johnson’s Britain. Oil and gas giants rake in billions, while families are told to buy quality food and pensioners ride around on buses to to warm up.