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Fresh food prices are rising at their fastest rate in almost a decade – fuelling concerns that struggling families face a nightmare choice between eating and heating.

The figure for healthy fresh produce was up by 3 per cent in December compared with a year ago and retailers warned that there will be more increases.

The rise, the fastest rate since April 2013, comes at the same time as households face big increases in the cost of heat and light with annual energy bills predicted to soar by £500-£800.

And the screw is set to be turned by increases in national insurance, council tax, rail fares and mortgage repayments.

The prices of healthy fresh produce is rising at its fastest rate since April 2013 - with the December rise reaching 3 per cent year-on-year

The prices of healthy fresh produce is rising at its fastest rate since April 2013 - with the December rise reaching 3 per cent year-on-year

The prices of healthy fresh produce is rising at its fastest rate since April 2013 – with the December rise reaching 3 per cent year-on-year

At the same time, the cost of household goods, such as furniture and tech, is going up amid the ongoing container shipping crisis and delivery difficulties. Last week, IKEA confirmed UK price rises of around 10 per cent.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘Consumers may have noticed that their Christmas shop became a little more expensive in December. Not only did prices rise, but they did so at a faster rate, especially in food.

‘Food prices were falling earlier on in 2021, but the acute labour shortages across supply chains, amongst other factors, led to the year ending with a notable increase; for example, fresh food saw the largest rate of inflation in almost a decade.’

The BRC also said that the average increase across all food prices, including packet and tinned products, was 2.4 per cent in December – the highest since March 2019.

The organisation said labour shortages are a key factor in higher prices and called for government action. It has been arguing for greater freedom to bring in workers, including HGV drivers, from overseas.

IKEA confirmed last week that they will be rising UK prices around 10 per cent as inflation soars

IKEA confirmed last week that they will be rising UK prices around 10 per cent as inflation soars

IKEA confirmed last week that they will be rising UK prices around 10 per cent as inflation soars

Miss Dickinson said: ‘The trajectory for consumer prices is very clear: they will continue to rise, and at a faster rate.’

The official CPI rate of inflation, which covers all goods and services, such as energy and transport, is currently running at 5 per cent and is predicted to rise to about 6 per cent in the next few months.

The BRC’s figures will heap pressure on ministers to help households facing a cost of living crisis.

On Sunday, MPs called on the Government to take action to help curb increases in energy bills.

Ministers are under pressure to cut the 5 per cent VAT on energy bills and to remove levies that are applied to bills to cover the cost of investing in green energy, such as wind and solar, and improving the national grid of cables and pipes.

The Prime Minister and the Government are under pressure to alleviate the cost of living crisis by scrapping VAT on energy bills

The Prime Minister and the Government are under pressure to alleviate the cost of living crisis by scrapping VAT on energy bills

The Prime Minister and the Government are under pressure to alleviate the cost of living crisis by scrapping VAT on energy bills

The Government’s energy price cap is due to be revised in February, with the increase put on customers’ bills from April.

Consumer champion Martin Lewis said: ‘What’s coming in April is a seismic hit for fuel bills. We are going to see a minimum 50 per cent increase in energy prices… and that is unsustainable for many.

‘We need to look at what we can do now and how we can protect those people who will need to choose between heating and eating. There are already some who are having to make that choice.’

Source: Daily Mail UK

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