What's behind the rising cost of bread?

Bread is bought by 99.8% of British households. Credit: Pexels

The price of food and non-alcoholic drink has soared by just over 19% in the year to March - the sharpest annual increase in nearly half-a-century.

Surging food prices are driving inflation, and everyday staples including eggs and bread are leading items straining Britain's households' grocery budgets.

The price-tag for a loaf of bread, a staple bought by 99.8% of British households, has remained inflated above 18.5% over the past five months.

But what is driving ballooning bread prices - and will they drop anytime soon?

How much does bread cost at the moment?

In March, prices of bread had soared by 18.9% against the same month last year.

Large sliced white bread specifically was among the top 10 worst everyday foods for inflation, according to consumer champion Which?.

It found large 800g loaves of sliced white bread saw an average increase of 22.8% from a year before.

As an example, they noted that Soft White Medium Sliced Bread from The Bakery at Asda jumped by 67% from 56p to 94p.

Why are bread prices remaining high?

Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues impact the cost of grains imported from that area of the world, but as wheat farmer Matt Culley explains, "wheat isn't the whole story".

87% of wheat processed in the UK is grown domestically. Furthermore, the value of wheat in an 800g loaf of bread stands at only 11%, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board estimates.

The combined cost of other ingredients, transport, packaging, electricity, fuel and staff has a greater impact on the price of bread.

The increased cost of fertiliser may also have a part to play. UK wheat farmers are paying "probably the most they've ever paid" for fertiliser that they will use up until harvest time, Mr Culley said.

Dr Peter Alexander, a global food security lecturer at the University of Edinburgh added: "Farmers will make decisions or make decisions back when energy and fertilizer prices are even dearer than they are now.

"Those kind of decisions to have less intensive production are still feeding through the food system. A reduction in supply because of those decisions, that are entirely rational decisions, are still feeding through the system."

The majority of households reported buying cheaper products to combat soaring food costs. Credit: Pexels

When will bread prices fall?

The price of wheat has fallen since Christmas, but there's often a lag between savings in production and savings on supermarket shelves.

"It's almost a six to eight month lag in the lower prices paid by the millers and how it feeds into a loaf of bread," Mr Culley explained.

Similarly, Dr Peter Alexander predicted bread prices will fall in around six months time, given that the price of fertiliser and gas have fallen from their peak.

"We should see something returning to more like normal levels of inflation - I think we should be getting towards the end by now," Dr Alexander forecasted.

How much have other food products' prices increased in the past year?

  • Olive oil 49.2%

  • Sugar 42.1%

  • Whole milk 37.9%

  • Sauces, condiments, salt, spices & culinary herbs 33.7%

  • Cheese & curd 33.6%

  • Eggs 32.0%

  • Pork 25.2%

  • Pasta products & couscous 24.1%

  • Butter 22.7%

  • Ready-made meals 20.9%

  • Fresh or chilled vegetables other than potatoes 20.5%

  • Potatoes 20.4%

  • Tea 19.0%

  • Poultry 18.0%

  • Crisps 17.9%

  • Fish 16.7%

  • Coffee 15.6%

  • Beef & veal 14.8%

  • Chocolate 14.6%

  • Rice 13.0%

  • Soft drinks 12.2%

  • Breakfast cereals & other cereal products 9.0%

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