Soaring food prices now primary driver of Britain's inflation crisis

How rising food prices are now the primary driver of Britain’s inflation crisis – with cost of staples such as pasta, eggs, cheese, milk and sugar surging up to 46 PERCENT in a year

  • It comes as UK inflation fell to hit single figures for the first time since August 
  • But Chancellor Jeremy Hunt warned food prices were still ‘worryingly high’  

Ballooning food prices are now the main driving force behind Britain’s inflation crisis, as the cost of household staples surged at the fastest rate in almost 45 years. 

Families have been hit with skyrocketing shopping bills, with sugar soaring in cost by 47.4 per cent and olive oil rising 46.4 per cent in the last 12 months. 

Meanwhile, essentials like eggs have surged 37 per cent, while flour and cereals have seen a 30 per cent hike, fresh Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed.

The news comes as it was announced the overall UK inflation fell sharply to hit single figures for the first time since August. 

However, the dip was nowhere near as much as expected prompting Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to today warn that food prices were still ‘worryingly high’. 

Some of he biggest increases recorded in household essentials over the past year has seen the likes of olive oil surge in price by 46.4 per cent and sugar increase by 47.4 per cent 

The skyrocketing prices of food and non-alcoholic drinks are now the main driving force behind Britain’s inflation crisis 

Food prices skyrocketed over the past year, with essentials like eggs surging by 37 per cent, while flour and cereals have seen a 30 per cent hike,  figures from the Office for National Statistics today show (file image)

The figures showed food bills rose 19.3 per cent, down only slightly on March’s eye-watering 19.6 per cent. 

The crisis has caused other household staples like pasta to swell by 27.7 per cent in cost over the past year.

READ MORE: Now cost of ‘cheap’ ready meals, coffee and tinned goods all surge as food price inflation hits record high of 15.7 per cent despite drop in wholesale costs, new figures show

While potatoes recorded a whopping 24.8 per cent surge, with yoghurts increasing by 24 per cent.

Meats have also ballooned in in price, with traditionally cheaper options like offal skyrocketing by 28.4 per cent and pork increasing by 27.2 per cent. 

The news comes just weeks after it was revealed fresh food prices had swelled by a record 17.8 per cent year-on-year for the month, driving up the cost of ‘cheap’ ready meals and coffee. 

Inflation is seen is a measure of the cost of living and to calculate it the ONS keeps track of the price of hundreds of everyday items – or ‘basket of goods’. 

The rate has surged over the past 18 months, as food and energy bills soared, squeezing household budgets for millions of struggling families. 

Today’s headline CPI dropped to an annual rate of 8.7 per cent in April, from 10.1 per cent the previous month. It is the slowest pace since March last year. 

But again the fall was not as big as expected, with analysts having pencilled in a number closer to eight  per cent.

Following the news, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt warned: ‘Although it is positive that it is now in single digits, food prices are still rising too fast.

This graph shows three measures of inflation: The consumer prices index (CPI), the consumer prices index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) and the owner occupiers’ housing costs measure (OOH)

This graphic shows the CPI goods, services and core annual inflation rates in the UK for the last decade, between April 2013 and April 2023

While this graph breaks down data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showing how inflation has risen over retail prices and food in the past 12 months

‘So as well as helping families with around £3,000 of cost-of-living support this year and last, we must stick resolutely to the plan to get inflation down.’

The level will also raise concerns that the Bank of England – which has a CPI target of two per cent and admitted consistently underestimating price pressures – will need to take further action on interest rates.

ONS chief economist Grant Fitzner said: ‘The rate of inflation fell notably as the large energy price rises seen last year were not repeated this April, but was offset partially by increases in the cost of second-hand cars and cigarettes.

‘However, prices in general remain substantially higher than they were this time last year, with annual food price inflation near historic highs.’

Eye-watering hikes in food prices 

The headline rate of inflation released today masks some even bigger increases in specific foods.  

Bread – 18.7%

Pasta – 27.7% 

Meat – 17.2%

Milk, cheese and eggs – 29.3%

Olive oil – 46.4%

Sugar – 47.4% 

In a fresh statement this morning, Mr Hunt admitted things are ‘tough’ but will ‘get better’.

‘Today’s fall in inflation to 8.7% – the lowest rate in over a year – shows we’re on the right track, but there is no room for complacency,’ he tweeted.

‘The IMF said yesterday we have acted decisively to tame inflation, but there is still work to be done – especially on food prices. Working in lockstep with the Bank of England, the UK Government has a clear plan to halve inflation this year. We must stick resolutely to the plan.

‘In the meantime, we’re supporting families with the cost of living worth £3,300 over this year and last.

‘Tomorrow, Ofgem will set the new Energy Price Cap where falls in gas prices will feed through to bills from July.

‘It’s tough right now, but things will get better.’

The steep fall in CPI reflects last April’s sky high rise in energy bills dropping out of the calculation, with the energy price cap having jumped higher a year ago as wholesale prices rocketed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last April, the energy price cap soared by 54 per cent to £1,971, but this year the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) has been kept at £2,500 since last October.

Ofgem is set to confirm tomorrow that energy prices will fall sharply for households in July, when the current EPG comes to an end.

Forecasters at Cornwall Insight are expecting the price cap to fall to £2,053.77, below the EPG for the first time since it was introduced last October.

But inflation has been stubbornly higher than predicted, with the rate of food CPI the second highest for more than 45 years.

The higher-than-expected figure will put pressure on the Bank of England to hike interest rates further from the 15-year peak of 4.5 per cent

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets, Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘Inflation has soared up like an eagle and taken a ferocious bite out of our standard of living, but it’s coming down at a snail’s pace and leaving a sticky trail of prices in its wake. 

‘Growing at 8.7 per cent in the year to April the growth in headline consumer prices was higher than expected and more than quadruple the Bank of England’s target. 

‘More worryingly, core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy prices crept back upwards to 6.8 per cent. 

‘It shows that the price spiral is still proving to be a stubborn beast to conquer for the Bank of England.’

Alice Haine, personal finance analyst at Bestinvest, said households could ‘breathe a mini sigh of relief’ over the figures – but warned the cost of living crisis was far from over. 

‘This ends a seven-month streak of double-digit rates – a reflection of a sharp fall in energy prices and a loosening labour market,’ she said. 

‘While easing inflation is undoubtedly good news, consumers should not expect any major change in their disposable income just yet – prices are still going up after all. 

‘The lower inflation figure is more about comparing apples with apples than retreating prices. 

‘This is because April’s Consumer Prices Index is compared to the same month in 2022 when the energy price cap increased by a whopping 54 per cent.’

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