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      Uist and Benbecula News

Tagsa Uibhist and Isles MP Angus MacNeil have tackled supermarket giant the Co-op over its sky-high prices and dismal product range.

The meeting, held last week, comes after long-running concerns in Uist over prices and food choices offered to island shoppers.

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, revealing major difficulties in accessing basic shopping essentials.

Mr MacNeil also wrote to the Co-op and Tesco regarding prices and product ranges.

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, which would have been 35-45p worth, they 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.”

Tagsa Uibhist chief executive Chris McLullich said the meeting with Co-op Head of Public Affairs Andrew Weston had been encouraging.

The Tagsa chief executive added: “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.”

He felt the Co-op’s Andrew Weston had listened to their concerns and invited Tagsa Uibhist to further meetings with the supermarket chain.