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UK food prices soar by record 10.6% as Russia-Ukraine war pushes up costs

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Food prices in the UK have soared by a record 10.6% this month, as the war in Ukraine continues to drive the cost of staples such as margarine, pasta and tinned tomatoes to new highs.

Overall, shoppers faced 5.7% inflation in September, up from 5.1% in August, the highest monthly rate since the British Retail Consortium-NielsenIQ index began in 2005.

Inflation in food prices this month has climbed past the 9.3% reported in August, fuelled by the war in Ukraine, which is continuing to push up the price of animal feed, fertiliser and vegetable oil, with a knock-on effect on products such as margarine.

Fresh food products cost a record 12.1% more than last year, up from 10.5% in August, the highest rate for the category on record.

Inflation for some staples such as pasta and tinned tomatoes, has reached a record 8.6%, up from 7.8% a month previously, the fastest rate of increase for the category.

However, some produce benefited from the long stretch of drought conditions over the summer, with a fall in prices for fruit such as strawberries, blueberries and tomatoes thanks to bumper harvests.

Non-food inflation rose from 2.9% in August to 3.3%, driven mostly by bigger hardware, DIY and gardening products hit by rising transport costs.

“Retailers are battling huge cost pressures from the weak pound, rising energy bills and global commodity prices, high transport costs, a tight labour market and the cumulative burden of government-imposed costs,” said Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the BRC. “And, with business rates set to jump by 10% next April, squeezed retailers face an additional £800m in unaffordable tax rises.”

Dickinson called on the government to freeze business rate rises so retailers can limit price rises for shoppers.

More than three-quarters of consumers surveyed by NielsenIQ say they expect to be “moderately or severely” affected by the cost of living crisis over the next three months. This is up from 57% in its summer survey.

“So households will be looking for savings to help manage their personal finances this autumn, and we expect shoppers to become more cautious about discretionary spend, adding to pressure in the retail sector,” said Mike Watkins, the head of retailer and business insight at NielsenIQ.

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