The disparity between the mark-up and what farmers receive is a joke - Sarah Todd

There will be enough hot air spoken to launch a whole fiesta of balloons in these days and weeks after the General Election. Any new member of parliament, of whatever political persuasion, who keeps their powder dry and simply watches and learns from their constituents deserves this and other voters’ respect.

Like thousands of other rural residents, this week is all about the Great Yorkshire Show. It will be interesting to see if new Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Steve Reed puts in an appearance.

He is the MP for Croydon, which the internet informs this correspondent is “a large South London town nine miles south of Charing Cross.”

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So far, not so rural, but as the likes of the National Farmers’ Union say, he has been willing to talk and listen while shadowing the role in opposition so deserves the courtesy of a warm welcome from the industry.

Flower farmers at the Great Yorkshire Show. PIC: Gerard BinksFlower farmers at the Great Yorkshire Show. PIC: Gerard Binks
Flower farmers at the Great Yorkshire Show. PIC: Gerard Binks

For the first time ever, we organised and booked a hotel so we could hit the showground running and avoid spending a large chunk of the mornings stuck in traffic.

Those in London boroughs like Croydon will be more than used to having their leg lifted, but this brief stay in Harrogate brought home the fact Britain needs to get a grip on a whole raft of cloud cuckoo land hospitality prices.

Hotel breakfasts are charged at an average of over £11 and the average takeaway coffee comes in at £3.50 per cup.

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What has never been successfully achieved by anyone - perhaps with the exception of farming’s new hero Jeremy Clarkson - is articulating the amount producers actually get paid for the ingredients that go into our meals. Time and again agriculture has failed to successfully call out the huge markup between what the farmer receives for the milk in the coffee and the bacon, eggs, sausage and so-on on those breakfast plates.

The gaping chasm between the two - what the producer gets and what they are then sold on to us poor consumers for - is something that needs urgently tackling. Not just for the agricultural industry, but for the general public who can be under the misapprehension that the soaring prices they pay benefit the farmer.

The price of steak, for example, in supermarkets and restaurants has absolutely nothing in common with the cheque the farmer gets sent from the livestock market or meat processor. It is those down the line that add all the inflationary costs on. Yes, they must process and package it - or pay someone to cook it and serve it up from a menu - but the disparity between field and fork is beyond a joke.

As is the fact nobody seems to have got to grips with explaining this to the wider world. The poor communication of food’s journey and calling into question the profiteering of those who get in on the act once it leaves the farm gate is something the industry should be ashamed of.

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We are now a nation that often never seems to question prices. Our grown-up children look mortified if we ever say, ‘How much?’ if we are grabbing a pub meal and a burger is marked up as just under £20 and some pudding that will have been in the freezer a few hours earlier is just shy of £8 per portion.

A personal challenge is finding a single small glass of wine that doesn’t cost more than this correspondent’s favourite. As an aside, bought from a local market town’s independent wine retailer at £8.50 a bottle.

Ripping-off people holidaying or just wanting the odd meal out and weekend away in this country must surely have played its part in research released earlier this year by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that shows a big upwards trend in Britons holidaying abroad - turning their backs on the staycations that were born out of necessity post-Covid.

Yes, guaranteed sunshine will be a factor. But maybe people are finally realising that UK holidays simply don’t offer value for money. Not just the accommodation and food, but the gridlocked and pothole littered roads to get there, or trains that are expensive and likely to be uncomfortably full or delayed.

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Spain tops the leaderboard as Britain’s favourite holiday destination and it can be no coincidence that its prices are so much lower than ours. Statistics gathered by the Post Office show buying a coffee in the Algarve is about 88p.

Heaven knows how much one will be at the Great Yorkshire Show - farmers should stamp their boots at any catering companies overcharging consumers at their industry’s showcase - but it’s still good to be back.

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