Waitrose warns of huge rise in price of food

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UPMARKET supermarket chain Waitrose is expecting “massive” price inflation in some shopping basket essentials.

Food prices have been pushed higher by drought in the US, Russia and Ukraine, plus wet weather in the UK which ruined crops. This forced up the price of commodities including wheat, in turn affecting feed prices and meat.

Waitrose managing director Mark Price was quoted as saying: “We’re seeing input food inflation of around three to 3.5 per cent, but we expect it go up to as much as five.”

He added: “In some commodities, the increases will be massive.”

The employee-owned chain, part of the John Lewis Partnership, was one of the festive winners among grocery retailers with total sales from its 288 stores rising 8.8 per cent year-on-year in the 12 days to December 31.

Mr Price said Waitrose was trying to avoid passing on inflation to customers, but told the Sun newspaper the pressure was a “global phenomenon”.

He said: “It’s bread, vegetables, all produce. The apple crop was down 20 to 30 per cent so apple prices have to go up. You have only seen the tip of the iceberg.”

A Morrisons spokesman said: “We are seeing similar things happen. We are seeing (crop) yields slightly down last year. Farmers found it harder to get vegetables out of the ground.

“Alongside that we are seeing global commodity prices edge up because of the drought in the US and Southern Europe. There’s upward pressure on commodities.”

However, he added Morrisons’ position as a major food manufacturer as well as retailer means there are “fewer middle men”, making it easier to absorb inflation.

Figures last month showed inflation of 2.7 per cent, with a fall in petrol prices not enough to outweigh higher costs for power and food. The Office for National Statistics said the year-on-year increase in food prices climbed to 3.9 per cent in November from 3.4 per cent in October and two per cent in September.

Despite this, Britain’s second-biggest grocer, Leeds-based Asda has committed not to raise the price of a core basket of goods including eggs, flour, bread, milk and minced beef. “We are incredibly committed to every day low prices,” said Asda chief executive Andy Clarke recently. “Our model drives us to look hard at ourselves before we look elsewhere.”