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    Signs UK is at ‘peak of food inflation’, says Spencer

    Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

    British food retailers have kept the prices of salad vegetables that have been in short supply “comparatively low” versus their European peers, food and farming minister Mark Spencer said today (23). He added that food inflation is “near its peak”, pointing out that other than vegetables, oils and fats  as well as milk, cheese and eggs also saw spike in prices in February.

    Responding to a question in the Commons, Spencer said that food prices have driven inflationary figure over the last month but the good news is “we are starting to see signs that we are at the peak of that”.

    “We recognise that food prices have gone up. The recent increase in food price inflation was driven by upward price movements in eight of the 11 food categories. The three most significant price increases since February 2022 are oils and fats, at 32.1 per cent; milk, cheese and eggs, at 30.8 per cent; and non-classified food products, at 28.9 per cent.

    “While recent unseasonable weather in Morocco has also created some temporary supply disruption to fruit and vegetables, domestic retailers have held prices comparatively low compared with the rest of Europe, where increased demand led to some cases of 300 per cent rises in the price of some vegetables.

    “A number of media outlets have reported that the recent shortage of some salad and vegetables has been the driver for the increase in food inflation in February, but that is not the case. The overall inflation rate increases have been caused by several factors,” said Spencer.

    For a month or so Britons have grappled with a shortage of key salad staples, particularly tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, while shelves in Europe have been piled high with the fresh produce.

    A hit to imports from disrupted harvests in north Africa due to unseasonable weather has been exacerbated by British farmers planting fewer crops under glass due to still high energy prices.

    “Whilst recent unseasonable weather in Morocco has also created some temporary supply disruption to fruit and vegetables, domestic retailers have held prices comparatively low compared to the rest of Europe, where increased demand led to some cases of 300% rises in the price of some vegetables,” Spencer told parliament.

    Despite the relatively low prices mentioned by Spencer, official data published on Wednesday showed UK consumer price inflation rose to 10.4 per cent in February, higher than a Eurozone average of 8.5 per cent.

    The Office for National Statistics said that an end to January drinks promotions in pubs and restaurants was the biggest factor behind the rise, but shortages of salad items also played a role. It said overall inflation for food and non-alcoholic drinks rose to 18.0 per cent, the highest since 1977.

    “A number of media outlets have reported that the recent shortage of some salad and vegetables have been the driver for the increase of food inflation in February, but this is not the case,” said Spencer.

    He said the inflation rate has been driven by several factors – higher utility prices and pressures on global supply chains that are being felt across Europe and beyond.

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