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Shoppers hit by rising prices as costs seen to soar over past five years

Olive oil bottles are seen in a supermarket in Rome, Friday, March 8, 2024.
Olive oil bottles are seen in a supermarket in Rome, Friday, March 8, 2024. Copyright AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
Copyright AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
By Indrabati Lahiri
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Items such as olive oil, baked beans and sugar have risen particularly steeply with adverse weather, geopolitical concerns and global inflation contributing to the rise.


The cost of olive oil rose by 113.8% between March 2019 to March 2024, with rises for baked beans and sugar climbing too, according to a study, using data from the Office for National Statistics.

The UK and other parts of Europe have been hit hard by the rise in the cost of living but countries such as Zimbabwe, Argentina, Venezuela, Haiti and Lebanon have also seen their costs rising sharply.

Which food items have gone up the most in the past five years?

According to the study, a 500ml to 1 litre bottles has gone up from around £3.76 (€4.41) on average in March 2019 to approximately £8.04 in March 2024.

This was mainly due to supply chain issues worldwide, especially following the Israel-Hamas conflict, which started in October 2023. Events such as the Israel-Hamas conflict and the Houthi Red Sea attacks attacking cargo and commercial ships passing through the Red Sea and Suez Canal have added travel time to commercial ship journeys which has led to higher prices for distribution.  

Olive oil production in key countries such as Spain, Italy and Greece has been problematic because of severe droughts and flooding.

A once-cheap and nutritious food option, baked beans, is 70.5% up on 2019, rising from 61p to £1.04 for a can.  

Still mineral water prices are up 67.7%, with 1.5-2 litre bottles now averaging £1.04 in 2024, up from £0.62 in 2019.

Another key staple, granulated white sugar, is up 67.6%, 71p in 2019 a kilo to £1.19 in 2024. Sugar crops have been affected by weather changes, especially droughts in key sugar-producing countries such as India.

Concerns of Indian reservoir levels running low in certain states such as Maharashtra and not being able to support sugarcane crops have also led to sugar prices skyrocketing. Increasing speculations of India imposing a sugar exports ban have also added fuel to growing prices.

Mintec analyst Andrew Woods said, as reported by The Grocer: "The government of India might ban sugar exports altogether and/or prompt the diversion of more cane to ethanol. Still, the weather is variable, and given the precariousness of the international sugar market this year, good weather/ monsoon forecasts drive down global sugar prices and vice-versa."

At the other end of the spectrum, baking potato prices are looking like a good buy, with a fall in prices of around 13% for the same period, down from just over one pound per kilo in to 90p.  The reason for this is believed to be increased competition.  

Cereals have also fallen prey to shrinkflation, where the box looks the same but the contents are smaller - leaving consumers feeling short-changed in more ways than one.  

Escalating fertiliser costs, as well as backlogs in fertiliser supply chains have also led to crop price increases. However, fertilisers can still be key in protecting crops from extreme weather with things such as special nutrients to heighten plant resistances to droughts, as well as boost harvest yields.

Marco Farnararo, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of BravoVoucher said in a press release: "This research underscores the financial pressures facing consumers, as food prices outpace general inflation rates. 

"Despite the legal minimum wage increasing by 9.8% this year, the highest boost since 2001, many people still aren't earning enough when taking into account the rising food prices, as well as the other factors such as energy prices and rent or mortgage payments, causing many people in the UK to struggle financially."

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