Why are food prices rising so much?

Soaring food and non-alcoholic drink prices have kept UK inflation in double-figures and continued to put more pressure on household budgets.

More expensive bread, cereals and chocolate all caused the overall average price of food and non-alcoholic drinks to increase 19.1% in the year to March.

This is the sharpest 12-month increase since August 1977.

Here are some of the main reasons food prices are rising so much.

Latest updates on UK inflation

Poor harvests

Food prices, especially for fruit, vegetables and sugar, have risen after poor harvests in Europe and North Africa reduced availability.

Retailers and wholesalers have had to pay more for items such as tomatoes, peppers and salad, which have been in short supply.

The weak pound

Importing has been more expensive because of the pound’s weak performance.

Retailers will not always pass the entirety of that increased cost onto their customers – while supermarkets try to hold back on introducing higher costs to remain affordable.

But it has not prevented the soaring escalation in prices among countless items, with imported goods costing more due to the sterling’s poor position.

Rising transport costs

Another big reason is that rising transport costs are making imports more expensive.

Figures this year showed the rising cost of energy had increased transportation costs for food and drink across various modes of transport.

On average, 34.3% of businesses in the manufacture of food and drink products reported experiencing global supply chain disruption between March 2022 and January 2023.

Ukraine war

Higher energy bills, prompted by the war in Ukraine as Europe weens itself off Russian gas, have forced producers to hike their prices, which have filtered through to everyday items like bread.

The war has also disrupted food exports from Ukraine, especially grain.


Brexit has “made the situation worse for UK manufacturers” while it has been blamed for adding hundreds of pounds to the average UK household shopping bill.

Karen Betts, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said earlier this year: “The increased costs of ingredients, energy, packaging and the movement of goods in and out of the UK alongside the relative weakness of the pound have only made the situation worse for UK manufacturers.”

Fruit has seen big price rises, while the UK’s apple-growing industry is under severe threat, with Brexit being blamed as one of the main reasons for its rapid decline.

The sector is struggling with a number of issues, including a shortage of workers – made worse since the UK’s exit from the European Union – as well as high energy costs, and low returns from the supermarkets that buy their produce.

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Pressure on the UK’s food supply chains

What has happened to the prices of some items in the last year?

These figures are based on the Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation and have been published by the Office for National Statistics.

In each case, the figure is the percentage increase in the average price over the 12 months to March.

– Olive oil 49.2%

– Sugar 42.1%

– Low-fat milk 38.8%

– Whole milk 37.9%

– Sauces, condiments, salt, spices & culinary herbs 33.7%

– Cheese & curd 33.6%

– Eggs 32.0%

– Frozen vegetables other than potatoes 30.2%

– Pork 25.2%

– Edible ices & ice cream 24.3%

– Pasta products & couscous 24.1%

– Butter 22.7%

– Yoghurt 21.9%

– Jams, marmalades & honey 20.9%

– Ready-made meals 20.9%

– Fresh or chilled vegetables other than potatoes 20.5%

– Potatoes 20.4%

– Tea 19.0%

– Bread 18.9%

– Mineral or spring waters 18.3%

– Poultry 18.0%

– Crisps 17.9%

– Pizza & quiche 17.2%

– Fish 16.7%

– Coffee 15.6%

– Beef & veal 14.8%

– Chocolate 14.6%

– Fruit & vegetable juices 14.1%

– Rice 13.0%

– Soft drinks 12.2%

– Frozen seafood 11.2%

– Fruit 10.6%

– Breakfast cereals & other cereal products 9.0%

– Lamb & goat 6.4%

– Dried fruit & nuts 5.8%