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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Isles MP and Tagsa Uibhist Grill The Co-op on Product Range and Prices

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Isles MP Angus MacNeil and Tagsa Uibhist met with the main supermarket company in the islands, the Co-op, last week, to raise concerns about the staggeringly high food prices faced by island shoppers.

As families face the additional financial burden of the festive season, Mr MacNeil highlighted to Head of Public Affairs at the Co-op, Andrew Weston, the issues of pricing and the need for more Co-op own-brand products to be available in all stores, including convenience shops.

Also at the meeting was Chief Executive of Tagsa Uibhist, Chris McLullich, and Alex MacKenzie, Local Food Development Manager for Tagsa Uibhist.

Earlier this year Tagsa Uibhist conducted a study, in partnership with Nourish Scotland, to look at the affordability and accessibility of basic fruit and vegetable items in Uist and Barra and to compare these findings with mainland data.

The “Our right to Food’ report found a staggering 28% island premium and revealed major difficulties in accessing basic shopping essentials.

Mr MacNeil had previously written to the Co-op and Tesco regarding prices and product range.

Mr MacNeil said:

“Last week’s meeting was helpful in that it allowed us to relay directly to Co-op management the situations that island shoppers face on a regular basis.

“Weather and ferries directly impact the delivery of food and other products. 

“Cheaper own-brand products sell out before the branded products, which can mean that the cost of shopping baskets can go up quite markedly in the event of travel disruption.

“This shows particularly in the price of fruit and vegetables.

“Since the Co-op stopped selling loose onions, that would have been 35-45p worth of onions, are now in a packet sold for £1:10.

“I will continue the dialogue with the Co-op to ensure that islanders are getting the best range of products including own-brand cheaper products and that prices are not disproportionately higher than mainland stores.”

Chief Executive of Tagsa Uibhist, Chris McLullich said:

“Our meeting with Angus Brendan and the Head of Public Affairs from the Coop was an encouraging one.

“In Tagsa we have been highlighting the ‘island premium’ in the cost of food, and the fact that it can be a challenge for many in Uist to have access to fresh and nutritious food.

“This has a huge negative impact on people’s health and wellbeing here, from families dealing with the cost-of-living crisis to people who need to follow specific diets for health reasons.

“Our research shows that food costs around 28% more than it typically would on the mainland.

“We also know that, due to distances and the lack of adequate public transport, that food shortages caused by ongoing supply chain problems mean that people often simply have to go without the products they need.

“We felt that Andrew Weston listened to our concerns and has since invited Tagsa to further meetings with the Coop.

“We would like to see a broader range of healthy, nutritious, fresh and affordable food in our local stores and will continue to advocate for this on the basis that people in Uist have the same right to good food as people in other parts of Scotland.

“We are delighted to have had the support of Angus Brendan in setting up this meeting.”

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