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Increase food inflation

The Rise in Food Prices Explained

Stumped by the surge in food costs? You're not alone. Explore the intricate factors behind this alarming 28% increase, the most rapid in decades, and find out what it means for consumers across the globe.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Understanding the Surge in Food Costs in Britain

There has been a significant rise in food prices throughout the European Union, but the situation is particularly concerning in the United Kingdom. With a staggering 28% rise in staple food prices, British consumers are more greatly affected by this situation than our neighbouring countries.


For instance, in Britain, the average price of a loaf of sliced white bread, one of the most basic staples, was 28% higher in April, at £1.39 ($1.72) compared to the previous year. Such an increase sets the country's quickest pace of annual food inflation in over 45 years.


Key Factors that Contributed to the Rise


Several factors are contributing to this worrying trend. Despite a drop in the costs of primary food ingredients and energy. Critical components in food production – food prices for consumers remain stubbornly high.


1. Commodity Prices and Supply Chain Costs

The United Nations index of global food commodity prices, which includes essential ingredients like wheat, meat, and vegetable oil, peaked in March 2022, immediately following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This geopolitical upheaval disrupted grain and oil production in the region, causing a ripple effect across global food supply chains. Even though there has been a significant decrease in European wheat prices since last May (about 40%), the increased costs earlier in the supply chain have yet to be fully absorbed, causing continued high prices at the consumer level.


data source: eurostat


2. Energy Prices

The conflict also forced Europe to replace Russian gas with new supplies rapidly, leading to a spike in energy prices. Even though these costs have recently declined, the effects are yet to reach consumers due to previously agreed energy contracts reflecting the earlier higher prices.


3. Labour Costs

The tight labour market conditions across Europe, with high job vacancy rates and low unemployment levels, have driven employers to increase wages to attract workers. This, in turn, has led to an uptick in operational costs for businesses, including those in the food sector.


4. Decreased farming yields

Agircultural food prices increased by +31% in 2021 and +23% during 2022 caused by irregular seasonal weather has resulted in lower than usual supply forcing price increases.


Future of Food Costs: Will They Continue to Rise?


Unfortunately, food prices in the UK are not expected to decrease anytime soon. While there have been slight lull in the rate of increase in some categories (the first decline in two years), any slowdown is likely to be gradual. Price increases are likely to continue, although they may happen at a slower rate in the near future.


The Return to Pre-Hike Food Prices: Is It Possible?


While returning to lower food prices is highly desirable, it's unlikely to happen soon. Central banks across Europe are under pressure to maintain high-interest rates to manage rising costs, potentially restraining economic growth and delaying the return to pre-hike prices.


In the face of this persistent food inflation, governments are resorting to measures such as price capping on essential food items. Unfortunately, these efforts only provide temporary relief. The basic comfort for British consumers will only come when food prices decline (a remote prospect).


Final Thoughts

In conclusion, while some of the factors contributing to food inflation in the UK may be temporary, the effects will likely persist for the foreseeable future. While short-term interventions like price capping on essentials may provide temporary relief, the path to real stability lies in grappling with core issues such as commodity prices, energy rates, and labour costs. With sustainable solutions and effective strategies, there's hope for the UK's food market to regain balance and offer relief to consumers. The UK government, businesses, and consumers must brace for this new reality and strategise accordingly. 

If you're part of a business that is affected by the increase and ever changing cost of food ingredients and want to know more about our food cost calculator you can contact a member of our sales team today to book a demo. 

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