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Cost of living: Why are food prices rising at the fastest rate since 1980?

Food price inflation hit 14.6% in September, largely due to the UK's dependence on increasingly expensive food imports from other countries. Experts say things will only get worse over the winter.

Food and drink prices are increasing at the fastest pace since April 1980, according to the latest official data from the Office for National Statistics.

Prices for food and non-alcoholic beverages rose 14.6% over the year to September 2022, increasing again for the 14th consecutive month.

Why is the weekly shop increasing in price so quickly?

The main reason is that rising transport and packaging costs are making imports more expensive.

Prices of food coming from inside and outside the EU are increasing twice as quickly as what we produce domestically, rising more than a third over the last year.

Edward Valesco, import manager at Rodanto, a global grower, importer and distributor of fresh fruit and vegetables, says that global inflation pressures, largely from the war in Ukraine, are driving up the cost of fuel and plastic, which is used in packaging.

Imports are more exposed to these price rises as it takes longer to get them from farm to shop.

But Valesco says "we've not seen the worst of it" yet, predicting that annual import inflation could hit 45% in the coming months.

"The prices that you're currently seeing on the shelf are still predominantly for UK produce," he says.

"It certainly will be a lot worse in about six weeks, around the Christmas period, as produce is now going to start to be imported over the coming weeks."

Almost half of UK businesses in the food and beverage industry reported that transportation costs increased the difficulty of importing.

These factors are pushing up prices around the world, but the UK is more exposed than most as it imports so much food.

Almost all the fish and more than 90% of the maize products on supermarket shelves in the UK are imported, far more than in the EU or the US.


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