By Tom Woolman, poultry consultant
I am lucky enough to live in the West Country constituency of Somerton and Frome, which by the time this is published will have held a by-election on 20 July.
Our previous Conservative MP, David Warburton, finally resigned after being suspended from the party 14 months ago. The people of Frome haven’t been happy about not being represented in parliament for over a year. Missing person posters appeared around the town: ‘Has anyone seen David?’
I have had six leaflets through the door from eager beavers, the Lib Dems. One was kindly delivered by Sir Ed Davey who was good enough to listen to me rant for two minutes about the lack of a national food policy and support for farming.
In their literature the Lib Dems accuse the Conservative of failures in food and farming. They point to food prices rocketing for local families and claim farmers have been abandoned and let down.
Now Somerton and Frome is definitely a rural constituency, no matter how cosmopolitan I feel like Frome is becoming. The largest local employer is the cheese factory, followed by the yoghurt factory on the other side of town.
However, I can’t help feeling that this signals a wider awareness among the population of the amount of pressure our food and farming system is under right now.
In a recent interview with The Grocer magazine, Asda’s chief commercial officer was asked directly whether supermarkets have exacerbated egg shortages through the prices they pay.
He replied that there had been a ‘structural challenge’ in the egg sector and admitted ‘there’s clearly a debate with the suppliers about which (cost price pressures) are justified…and sometimes that can lead to shortages.’
I would suggest that is as much of an admission that they called it wrong as you will get from a leading retailer.
In the fight to win votes, what policy commitments will be devised when parties come to writing their next manifestos?
It is clear the problems of food and farming are on the minds of my neighbours, whoever wins on 20 July.