UK food prices have endured a rise in recent weeks, according to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC). The prices jumped by 0.4 percent month-on-month rise in August. This was driven by a 0.6 percent rise in non-food prices, including a sharp increase in the cost of electrical goods caused by shortages of micro-chips and shipping problems. Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the BRC, said: “There are some modest indications that rising costs are starting to filter through into product prices.
“Food retailers are fighting to keep their prices down as far as possible. But mounting pressures – from rising commodity and shipping costs as well as Brexit-related red tape, mean this will not be sustainable for much longer, and food price rises are likely in the coming months.
“Disruption has been limited so far, but in the run-up to Christmas the situation could get worse, and customers may see reduced choice and increased prices for their favourite products and presents.”
In January 2019, academics at Imperial College London and the University of Liverpool warned that rising food prices as a result of Brexit could lead to more heart attacks.
They said that even leaving the EU with a deal would see food prices rise, and more expensive fruit and vegetables could impact the health of the country as a whole.
Because low fruit and vegetable intake is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, this would impact heart and stroke deaths, the researchers warned.
Professor Christopher Millett, from the School of Public Health at Imperial, who jointly led the research, said: “The UK’s exit from the European Union has long been framed in terms of its political and social importance.
“But this study shows that the impact of Brexit will reach far beyond the economy and may affect people’s risk of disease.
“The UK Government must consider the public health implications of Brexit trade policy options, including changes to the price of key food groups.”
But his research was met with criticism by some, including Edgar Miller of the Economists for Free Trade group.
He said: “This is Project Fear at its very worst – a report written by a group of generally junior medical researchers none of whom have any discernible expertise in trade theory or experience in modelling trade flows.
“They have missed the key point: the EU exists to protect EU, the majority French, farmers from market forces in the rest of the world.
“Getting rid of EU protectionism through free trade agreements and unilateral elimination of tariffs on fruit and vegetables that are not produced in the UK will result in an immediate fall in food prices, as exporters around the globe supply food at lower world prices.
“Food producers from the EU will then have to cut prices to stay competitive; they will not be in a position to raise prices in Britain, even if Britain imposes tariffs against the EU.
“In addition, the UK will see a seven per cent gain in GDP and an overall 8 percent fall in consumer prices.”
However, in January, traders and a top restauranteur warned that fruit and vegetables will indeed be affected by Brexit red tape and price rises.
Brexit: UK could ‘divide and conquer’ EU to ‘weaken union’ [INSIGHT]
Macron snubbed by French in Brexit row: ‘Don’t blame England’ [ANALYSIS]
EU countries ‘depend on UK tourism’ as bloc warned of ‘flare up’ [INSIGHT]
Commercial director Vernon Mascarenhas said in January: “We have to go through the broker to get the paperwork done, and the broker charges per invoice.
“That is where the price increase has come from. We have no option, we cannot do it in house to bring those costs down. Fruit and veg is a very tight margin business anyway, so yes companies are passing it [costs] on.
“It will be noticed when someone is buying a box of artichokes from Italy and it costs £25 not £21.
“The chefs are going to start to lay off on the more luxurious ingredients, like truffle, and go for a lot more of the less expensive ingredients, because they are going to have to keep the costs of their dishes down.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a 3* Michelin restaurant or a pub around the corner, there is a price bracket that you have to work to.”
Meanwhile, David Moore, owner of Fitzrovia’s Pied à Terre, said at the time he was already seeing vegetable prices up by 20 percent on last year.