Scrap the Cap! Consumers' Association says abolish the Common Agricultural Policy, as research shows UK food prices are artificially high

Consumers' Association (CA) today called for the abolition of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), as it released research to show that food prices in the UK are over twice as expensive as those in New Zealand, and that consumer confidence in the CAP has plummeted.

The total cost of a 'basket' of 15 food items including beef steak, lamb chops, olive oil and rice was £84.68 in the UK, and (equivalent) £39.48 in New Zealand. New Zealand is a country with no subsidies or tariffs for agriculture production. The price differentials are partly due to the inflated prices set by the Common Agricultural Policy.

Research carried out by the EU's own regular survey of consumers across the 15 member states has also found that consumer confidence in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has plummeted, including a drop of 15% in the number of people who think the CAP can provide healthy and safe food products (from 52% in September 2000 to 37.2% in June 2001).

As feelings of discontent with the CAP grow, Consumers' Association today called for the abolition of the CAP and of DG Agriculture, the part of the EU Commission which administers the policy. The consumer champion also set out feasible alternatives which would place consumers and food safety, rather than producers, at the heart of agriculture policy.

In its report Setting Aside the CAP - the future of food production, published today, Consumers' Association highlighted the appalling waste and inflated prices caused by the CAP, and called for its abolition. The Common Agricultural Policy:

  • Costs a family of four £16 per week in taxes and higher food prices
  • Cost the UK £5billion last year - equivalent to 2p on the rate of income tax
  • Damages the countryside. There has been a 40% decline in once common and widespread farmland birds, such as the skylark, since 1970
  • Harms the world's poorest countries - It limits their exports to the EU and uses EU money to undermine their farmers
  • Is unequal and unfair - 70% of farm support goes to the biggest 30% of farmers
  • Doesn't tackle food safety and quality
  • Makes EU food probably the most expensive in the world. Beef in the UK is twice as expensive as beef in New Zealand, which has a liberalised agriculture system

Consumers' Association recommended that:

  • The CAP - including all price support, subsidies (including export subsidies and import tariffs), quotas and the set-aside system - should be phased out and replaced with new food, rural, and environmental strategies
  • DG Agriculture should be wound up and responsibility for relevant policies should be passed to the appropriate Commission Directorate-Generals, including those concerned with the environment, trade, health, and consumer protection
  • The European Food Authority, currently being set up, should have a broad remit, including nutrition issues as well as focusing on consumer health and protection, and have greater powers than currently proposed.
    Sheila McKechnie, Director of Consumers' Association, said:

"The Common Agricultural Policy is well past its sell-by date."

"The policy has led to appalling levels of waste, inflated food prices, and a market that is rigged against consumers, and for the interests of producers. The average family of four spends £59.48 on food every week. Contributions to the CAP cost around £16 per week for the family - a stark reminder of how much everyone bears the burden of this policy."

"We need a European food policy, not a European agriculture policy. While the UK Government is in favour of reform of the CAP, they are holding back from taking the only position that will really make a difference: abolition."

"This indefensible position is harming UK consumers, a large section of the agriculture industry, and many developing countries."