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UK fresh food prices surge 15% in year to December

Shoe, Footwear, Clothing REUTERS/Neil Hall
Food price inflation rose to a record 13.3% in December

Fresh food prices at British supermarkets in early December were 15 percent higher than a year earlier, the biggest annual increase since at least 2005 when records started, figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed on Wednesday.

British households were hit hard by a soaring cost of living in 2022, and the Bank of England has forecast that inflation will remain high over the coming months due to the ongoing impact of high energy bills before falling later in 2023.

The BRC said the overall annual rate of shop price inflation reported by its members – mostly large retail chains and supermarkets – dropped to 7.3 percent from 7.4 percent. This was driven by a drop in inflation for non-food items to 4.4 percent from 4.8 percent.

Overall food price inflation rose to a record 13.3 percent from 12.4 percent, reflecting increases in the rate of inflation to 15 percent for fresh food and 11 percent for less perishable items.

“Reverberations from the war in Ukraine continued to keep high the cost of animal feed, fertiliser and energy,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

The BRC price data was collected between December 1-7.

Britain’s official rate of consumer price inflation – which covers a wider range of goods, services and businesses than the BRC survey – hit a 41-year high of 11.1 percent in October, before dropping to 10.7 percent in November.

However, food and drink price inflation, as measured by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), continued to increase in November, hitting its highest since September 1977 at 16.4 percent on the official measure.

Many British households are struggling. Last month, the ONS said six percent of households had run out of food because they could not afford to buy more. Almost a quarter of households were unable to afford to consistently keep their main living room at a comfortable temperature.

Separate research from the British government’s Food Standards Agency in September found that 30 percent of households had reduced portion sizes or skipped meals to save money.