Food prices are soaring and here’s why
Professor Chris Elliott discusses the reasons behind the increasing food prices, which will leave many facing the difficult decision of whether to heat their homes or feed their families.
World food prices are soaring and approaching record levels that were last seen over a decade ago. This news won’t come as a surprise to many as warnings and discussions around price hikes continue to dominate our news and socials feeds, but what was once hearsay has now transformed into our bleak reality. The price increases have arrived – and have become somewhat more noticeable over recent months.
In fact, data from Kantar shows that in December alone, the four-week grocery price inflation stood at 3.8 percent, with the average monthly household food bill increasing by £15 or more during this period. In a previous Chris’ Corner, I predicted – unfortunately correctly – that this would be the case. My forecasts were based on three main factors. Firstly, the major retailers I spoke to were already seeing costs increases and knew that this could only be absorbed by themselves and their supply chains for a short time. Secondly, the fallout of the pandemic was likely to result in massive increases in transportation and labour costs due to border closures, lockdowns and illness – and did. The third reason was around the number of reported crop failures we’d been seeing across many parts of the world due to our ongoing climate crisis. Generally, we eat what was harvested last year so the impacts of droughts, floods and other extreme weather events of 2021 are being felt now.
The forecasts made by industry last year, ‘that things would remain bad during 2022’, has been recently confirmed by the CEO of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson, who warned: “The trajectory for consumer prices is very clear: they will continue to rise, and at a faster rate”. And it is hard to argue against this dire statement.
A choice between heating and eating
In the wake of rising energy costs, worker shortages and tax hikes, many will face a choice between heating their home or feeding themselves and/or their families. This is a global phenomenon, which can be attributed to the pandemic, the Ukraine crisis and global warming. Moreover, it is difficult to predict what will happen beyond 2022 on a national level, not to mention on a global scale.
The UK Government has opted for high taxation and limited intervention to relieve the pressure on the most hard-pressed in our society, rather than any windfall taxes on the companies and individuals who have made vast sums of money during the pandemic. In other words, it seems it will be the ‘tough medicine’ approach for citizens. According to Kwasi Kwarteng, the Secretary for State for Business and Energy, this is about stimulating inward higher investment in the UK.
It’s extremely difficult to offer any meaningful advice about how to get through this very tough period. Reducing food waste as much as is possible is clearly going to be the right thing to do in terms of lowering costs. Generally, buying seasonal products is cheaper than those out of season, and adapting what types of meals are prepared to what’s available at lower price ranges will always be helpful. More ‘from scratch’ cooking will also be a way to help make ends meet – and for many, (myself included) this will mean more time spent in the kitchen. At the same time, we must all remain vigilant, keeping a lookout for crooks trying to sell cheap food, especially meat out of vans, as this could invite food safety risks.
I fear that not only the cost of living will soar but the need for foodbanks will follow suit. One thing those, like myself, can do, is provide larger donations more regularly in a hope that this alleviates the pressure – that no one should have to face – on choosing between a warm home or food on the table.