Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Cost of basics keeps on rising

Double-digit hikes in our energy bills is matched by disturbing rises in the price of everyday foodstuffs

Thousands of families are already having to spend an extra £1,400 a year on groceries, but with prices rising more steeply than at any time in almost two decades, there is every chance that figure could soar.

The annual increase in a basket of essentials — such as milk, bread and butter — has surged to nearly 30% in 12 months, according to the price comparison website MySupermarket.com, which checks prices across Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s online.

Indeed, the most recent research showed the prices of some commodities have rocketed by around 120%.

Families struggling to cope with the effects of the so-called credit crunch have already cut back on luxury items, but there are growing concerns that many more may not even be able to afford the basics.

The big supermarkets claim to be doing their best in these difficult times, but when it comes to the cost of filling a shopping trolley many consumers still believe they are being bled dry.

And with the recent double digit hikes in ‘must pay’ essentials — electricity and gas, as well as petrol and diesel, not to mention home heating oil — most people are already finding they have less disposable income to hand and a trip to the shops brings little solace.

That’s why the Belfast Telegraph is today embarking on a campaign to monitor and challenge the seemingly relentless price increases across the board.

We also intend to outline any bargains that will help the man and woman in the street fight the negative effects of the economic downturn and hopefully make it possible to live comfortably, rather than on the breadline.

Last month it was reported that food inflation hit a 28-year high of 13.7%, but this alone fails to reflect the problems in homes across the country.

A more detailed examination indicates that it’s the most basic items that appear to be in the firing range — in other words, the products which few households can realistically do without.

Milk is up by 26%, butter by up to 68%, bread by as much as 27% and mild cheddar by 37%, according to MySupermarket data for August.

Fusilli pasta has risen by a staggering 113.5% in some supermarkets, while basmati rice has gone up a massive 120%.

The bottom line is that the cost of a shopping basket for families in Northern Ireland has risen significantly (to around £30) over the last 12 months — despite a series of high-profile ‘supermarket wars’.

Meanwhile, a study by world-leading market researcher TNS Global has also revealed that average basic food prices have been going up significantly across Northern Ireland — in ALL shops and not just supermarkets.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Marie Burke, managing director of TNS World-|panel, Ireland, pointed to the outside factors pushing up prices and said that consumers here were the big losers.

“The value of the grocery food market in Northern Ireland is up 8.2% annually, which is partly driven by the increase in overall food prices,” she said.

“Particularly commodity products such as milk, butter, flour and eggs have risen in price, due to increasing raw material costs and shortages worldwide.

“The volume of the food market is only growing by 4%, which indicates that overall, consumers are getting less for their money.”

The findings showed the average cost of a loaf of bread in Northern Ireland has gone up from £1.03 in 2007 to £1.17 this year, a hike of 13.6%. A pint of milk has also risen from £0.55 to £0.62 (12.7%), while butter (1kg) now costs 13.7% more, at £3.08 compared with £2.65 in 2007.

The statistics also revealed that, over the last three years, there has been a 10.5% increase in the price of 1kg of sausages (from £2.94 to £3.25), as well as a hike of 36% on the cost of a single egg, which now costs £0.15 compared to £0.11 in 2006 and £0.12 last year.

Data supplied by the Office for National Statistics has also highlighted some staggering price increases in commodities across all food retailers over the past 10 years.

A dozen eggs has gone up a massive 109% (from £1.26 to £2.63), sugar (14g) has surged by 24% (from £0.67 to £0.83), and a pint of milk has seen a 20% hike (from £0.34 to £0.41) between June 2007 and June 2008.

Similarly, a loaf of sliced bread has witnessed an incredible 127% increase (from £0.51 to £1.16), while butter (250g) has gone up by 18% (from £0.85 to £1.00) during the same period of time.

Eleanor Gill, chief executive of the Consumer Council, said the rising cost of food was one of the top concerns outlined by householders in a recent cost of living survey carried out by the organisation.

“Consumers are worried about how they are going to make ends meet and over two thirds are struggling to pay bills,” she said.

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