Grocery store shoppers across Great Britain are being pummeled by the highest food price increases in nearly half a century. This coupled with double-digit inflation and real wages falling yet again is causing a massive strain on wallets and pocketbooks.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the consumer price index (CPI) hit a staggering 10.1% in March. Though slightly down from February’s 10.4%, it still is the highest in Western Europe.
It came in almost a full percentage point higher than projected by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee.
Data also showed food prices hit levels unseen in 45 years. According to the BBC, the leaders were olive oil, which soared 49% in the new year through March, milk products are up 38%, and ready-made meals are 21% higher.
Not far behind are breads and cereals, which account for a 19.4% increase. That marks the highest rate measured since government record-keeping of such prices began in 1989.
Inflation in the UK the highest in the G7- by some margin (latest figs for each)
UK 🇬🇧 10.1%
France 🇫🇷 6.6%
Germany 🇩🇪 7.8%
US 🇺🇸 5.3%
Italy 🇮🇹 8.1%
Canada 🇨🇦 4.3%
Japan 🇯🇵 3.3%
— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) April 19, 2023
Overall, food and non-alcoholic beverage costs surged 19.2% in the 12-month period leading up to March. The British government reported this was the steepest annual rise in over 45 years.
British households should be grateful that inflation slipped from its 41-year high of 11.1% in October. Last month’s slight decline is almost entirely attributed to gas prices, which spiked a year ago after Russia invaded Ukraine.
ONS chief economist Grant Fitzner explained, “the main drivers of the decline were motor fuel prices and heating oil costs, both of which fell after sharp rises at the same time last year.”
But even the energy sector’s other major categories, such as household gas and electricity prices, are skyrocketing at near-record rates.
More bad news came from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research. The organization reported that real wages, which are determined by comparing earnings with inflation, fell another 3.3% from 2022.
And that mark factors in wage growth of 6.6% for the three months leading up to February. But even that healthy upward trend could not keep pace with white-hot inflation.
The rampant inflation is taking its toll on society, and disruptions are widespread as workers across a range of economic sectors are engaged in strikes. As their pay cannot keep up with price spikes, they are calling for higher wages and better working conditions.