The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published consumer price inflation figures for March 2023 which show that for food and non-alcoholic beverages prices rose by 19.2% in the year to March 2023, up from 18.2% in February. This annual rate is the highest seen in this category for over 45 years.
The increase between February and March 2023 was largely driven by bread and cereals, where prices rose in the month to March 2023 but fell a year earlier, leading to an annual rate of 19.4% in the year to March 2023. This is the highest annual rate for bread and cereals on record (with the series starting in January 1989). Within this detailed class, the upward push between the latest two months came from a variety of biscuits and cakes.
Other smaller upward effects between February and March came from fruit, chocolate and confectionery, and meat, partly offset by a downward movement from oils and fats, where the annual rate slowed from 32.1% to 25.6%.
The annual rates in March 2023 for chocolate and confectionery, other food products (principally ready-meals and sauces) and hot beverages were each the highest on record (starting from January 1989).
Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) responded to these latest figures explaining that “food prices, especially for fruit, vegetables, and sugar, rose as poor harvests in Europe and North Africa reduced availability, and the weak pound made importing more expensive. With food price inflation likely to slow in the coming months as we enter the UK growing season, we expect wider inflation will continue to ease. Nonetheless, prices for consumers will remain high, especially as household bill support is lifted” She also called on Government to “play its part by minimising the oncoming regulatory burdens, as these will hinder investment and will ultimately contribute to ongoing higher prices for households”