Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Soaring cost of the Ulster fry hard to stomach for hard-pressed consumers

The soaring cost of the Ulster fry is hard to stomach for hard-pressed consumers
The soaring cost of the Ulster fry is hard to stomach for hard-pressed consumers
Richard Ramsey

They call it the humble Ulster fry – but there's nothing humble about how much it costs to rustle up these days.

That's because of a significant rise in food price inflation which has pushed up one of our favourite morning meals by a whopping 44%.

The price of all items on a typical Northern Ireland breakfast plate shot up dramatically between August 2007 and February 2014. New figures from Ulster Bank have revealed that eggs are 61.2% more expensive today, while pork sausages have risen by 43.8%, bacon is 21.2% more expensive, tomatoes are up 51% and mushrooms have ballooned by 16.9%.

Similarly, there have been painful hikes in bread (up 36.8%), milk (34.3%), coffee (38%) and tea (26.9%) over the past six-and-a-half-years.

Lovers of toast with lashings of butter may also be surprised to learn that it rose by a mammoth 356%, as a result of higher milk prices, increased processing costs and a surge in demand.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said he created the so-called 'Ulster Fry Index' in order to help consumers track food price trends. "The Ulster fry is symptomatic of wider global food price inflation because it illustrates a wide variety of our staple products and it shows the rising cost of these items," Mr Ramsey said.

"Many people have been subject to pay freezes or low pay rises for the last few years. If that's combined with an increase in the cost of food, consumers will spend less on non-essentials and more of the weekly budget on existing.

"That in turn means there is less of your salary left over for other things.

The good news is that the period of exorbitant price rises has reached the end of its shelf life – in the absence of, for example, adverse weather conditions that could upset harvests, reduce supply and increase prices.

"Overall food inflation is now running at just 1.8% year-on-year, whereas it was running at close to 5% six months ago," Mr Ramsey said.

"Hopefully that means we'll now see prices begin to level out."

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