Brits stealing food to sell on black market – report
The UK’s cost-of-living crisis is fueling a record surge in shoplifting as people increasingly turn to the black market for food, The Guardian has reported, citing official data.
Estimates by the British Retail Consortium show that retail thefts cost the industry £1 billion ($1.3 billion) in 2023, the newspaper said. Meanwhile, Home Office data shows that shoplifting has reached its highest level since records began, while the number of unresolved incidents has also risen.
According to the report, the items most commonly stolen are meat, cheese, and sweets, which are typically considered high value goods that can be resold. The items are being stolen in large quantities from shops and trucks in order to be sold to people hit by soaring prices.
The cost-of-living crisis has made people “think of alternative ways of sourcing items that are essential to them,” the chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, Andrew Goodacre, was quoted as saying. Shops that had not previously faced shoplifting reported that thieves were clearing whole shelves in seconds, Goodacre said. “I think that’s because the black market has got so much bigger,” he added.
Meanwhile, Wendy Chamberlain, a former police officer-turned-Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group for the elimination of food banks, claimed it is unsurprising that people are obtaining food through criminal means as important nutritional foods have “essentially rocketed in price.” According to Chamberlain, food poverty in the UK could be particularly acute at this time of year, with food banks providing only essentials that are generally “not particularly attractive or nutritional.”
“When money is tight, when they’ve spent a long time saying ‘no’ to other family members, the opportunity to buy something a bit more premium and high-end, with ‘ask no questions’, and ‘off the back of a lorry’, as it were, is appealing,” she told The Guardian.
A recent report by the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) showed many popular grocery suppliers have been pushing up prices by more than their cost, fueling so-called ‘greedflation’ and making excessive corporate profits. The study found that over the last two years, around three-quarters of branded suppliers in products such as infant formula, baked beans, mayonnaise, and pet food have increased their unit profitability and, in doing so, have contributed to higher food price inflation.
The CMA report indicated that food price inflation in the UK continues to be at historically high levels, despite falling to 10.1% in October.
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