Inflation highest in decade, partly driven by higher food prices: ONS

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Inflation in Britain soared to its highest level in nearly a decade, according to official data released today (15), increasing to 3.2 per cent in August, partly driven by higher prices for food caused by supply chain crisis.

As per data by Office of National Statistics, August saw the biggest monthly rise since records began in 1997, taking inflation way above the Bank of England’s 2 per cent target.

Food supply chain issues, caused in part by a shortage of lorry drivers, are likely to add to the pressures on family budgets in the run-up to Christmas. 

The ONS said food and non-alcoholic drinks prices rose by 1.1 per cent in August- the highest rate of growth since 2008- reflecting the impact from supply chain disruption amid shortages of lorry drivers and higher global freight costs.

An exodus of European HGV drivers following Brexit and the pandemic have reportedly combined to create a severe shortage of drivers which the government is trying to address by speeding up the testing system to boost numbers.

However, several businesses have reported shortage of supply and their struggle in catering customers, calling on the government to ease Brexit immigration rules for EU drivers. The government has repeatedly turned down the demand saying business should stop “relying” on EU drivers and train and hire domestic workers instead.

The ONS, however, added that the sharp rise was likely to be temporary as the reading had been heavily distorted by Rishi Sunak’s discount scheme, which offered customers half-price food and drink from Monday to Wednesday in August 2020.

Despite that, experts warned inflation might remain persistently high.

“The cost of food, of rent, of basic day-to-day living is the highest it’s been for 10 years,” said the GMB trade union’s Rehana Azam. “Yet the government persists with pushing forward a real-terms pay cut for public sector workers. Their cruel agenda is taking food from the mouths of our carers, our NHS workers, of school staff and our council workers.”

Amid concerns that families could face food shortages at Christmas, Boris Johnson has appointed Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove to oversee a task force to tackle food supply issues, quipping he “didn’t want to have to cancel Christmas again”.