The farming sector has comprehensively rebuffed UK Government proposals that would have put a price cap on certain food items in shops, including eggs and dairy.

UK ministers held talks with retailers about setting a 'voluntary cap' on essential food items to help tackle the rising cost of living. Figures from April showed that food-flation had risen 19.1% in the last 12 months, though Downing Street said the plans would not be mandatory.

However, even the 'voluntary' angle had flown in the face of what was discussed at the 'farm to fork summit' held recently in No 10, said farming leaders.

Basic foods, such as milk, bread and eggs have been singled out as potential items to have prices limited. Egg producer and NFUS committee chair, Robert Thomson, called the proposals 'completely un-workable’.

He said: “If there is a price cap below cost of production, we will just stop producing. No way in a modern country like the UK, a relatively rich country, should we even be having discussions about it. Food has been too cheap for too long.

“The retailers need to listen to what farmers and producer organisations are saying. Our industry told them there would be problems, but the retailers chose to ignore us and now we have empty shelves and no eggs," he argued.

"The whole supply chain is completely broken. Constant food devaluation is not going to work – it is a complete disaster. Producers have lost substantial amounts of money in the last few years whilst retailers have posted massive profits.”

The capping proposals were also unpopular with NFU Scotland President, Martin Kennedy, who said: "After attending the first ever farm to fork summit at Downing Street two weeks ago, to hear and welcome the Prime Minister’s support for farmers throughout the UK, it is extremely worrying and disappointing to hear proposals emerging of a voluntary price cap on food through the retailer network – a subject that was never raised nor discussed at the recent summit.

"From the perspective of farmers and crofters, although voluntary at retailer level, this has implications and the genuine fear that this proposal will only lead to one thing and that is further pressure on the primary producer.

“In the past month, every major retailer has already cut the retail price of milk and butter and that is working its way back to the farmgate for dairy farmers. It is also working its way into retail inflation figures.

"Calling for a voluntary cap on shop prices for some food staples, whilst denying higher levels of energy relief for those who grow, store or rear produce, run contrary to each other and simply increases the risk of a further reduction in production and makes food scarcity more inevitable.

"If the Prime Minister is serious about supporting UK agriculture, then he must rethink this proposal or at least make it abundantly clear that any price cap enforced must have no impact on the opportunity for our farmers and crofters to get a fair return for the food they produce.

"Fairness in the supply chain is something that the Prime Minister says he wants to see and the investigations into pigs, eggs and horticulture support that. Fairness starts by supporting and fairly rewarding those at the sharp end to maintain supply.”

Stranraer dairy farmer Gary Mitchell said: “I would be totally against any interference in food prices and we know retailers again would maintain their margin while ours would be squeezed.”