Food and commodity prices will continue in their upward curve as global demand outstrips supply, the food industry was warned today (31 March).

Speaking at the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum this morning, Dr Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, suggested that the current system of food production “is not fit for purpose”.

Toulmin said that food producers, NGOs and governments must work towards a collaborative solution to increase food production while also reducing its impact on the environment. This solution will likely include the development of new production technologies, as well as methods to reduce waste and improve land-use efficiency, Toulmin suggested.

Nevertheless, she warned: “The price of food is going to go up relative to other things over the next 30-40 years. We are going to have to accept that we live in a finite world and there is only so much clever science can achieve.”

This constriction of supply will have a material impact on the way food reaches consumers, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association Dominic Dyer suggested.

“Retailers have been able to supply us with a huge variety of foods,” he said. “They aren’t going to be able to offer us that much choice in the next ten years. There are going to be fewer products and they are going to be more expensive.”

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Meanwhile, UK MP Neil Parish, who sits on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, concluded that rising prices will likely have a profound impact on consumer attitudes to food. Higher prices will trigger a widespread reassessment of the use of various technologies in food production, including the controversial use of GM, Parish argued. 

“We have got to use all technologies,” Parish urged. “People’s hearts are often on the left while their pockets are on the right. As food prices go up people are going to be very concerned about how to get competitive food and they may be less concerned about how that food is produced.”