Sunak urges supermarkets to cap prices of staple items as food inflation remains 'worryingly high'

28 May 2023, 11:00 | Updated: 28 May 2023, 11:57

Food inflation remains more than double the standard rate at 19.1%
Food inflation remains more than double the standard rate at 19.1%. Picture: Getty/ONS
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Rishi Sunak will ask supermarkets to introduce price caps on basic items such as bread and milk as food inflation continues to remain "worryingly high".

Aides inside Downing Street are drawing up policy plans similar to that which have been adopted in France, where supermarkets charge the "lowest possible amount" for basic food items.

The policy is not expected to be mandatory, with No10 saying that any proposals would be optional for UK supermarkets.

It comes as figures released this week showed inflation has fallen to single digits for the first time since August.

But food inflation remains "worryingly high" and at 19.1 per cent, it is close to reaching a record high.

Listen and subscribe to Unprecedented: Inside Downing Street on Global Player

Downing Street has insisted the plans would be optional
Downing Street has insisted the plans would be optional. Picture: Getty

A Treasury source told The Telegraph: "Food inflation is much more resilient and difficult to get rid of than we anticipated."

The government originally believed inflation would fall faster, throwing Mr Sunak's plans to cut taxes before the next election into doubt.

A Cabinet source said: “If you haven’t got growth you haven’t got the money [for tax cuts], it’s as simple as that.”

Speaking after the latest inflation figures, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “The IMF said yesterday we've acted decisively to tackle inflation but although it is positive that it is now in single digits, food prices are still rising too fast.

"So as well as helping families with around £3,000 of cost of living support this year and last, we must stick resolutely to the plan to get inflation down.”

Mr Hunt said this week that he would accept Britain entering a recession if it meant inflation was to come down.

Read More: Battle of Royal Lodge: Only Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and not King Charles can force Prince Andrew out of royal home

There is some concern, however, that plans to ask supermarkets to cap the price of basic food items would be "anti-market".

One source told the publication: "It’s very easy to point the finger at retailers and say they are making a fortune, but some of the margins they are operating at are not that big. It is quite tight."

Jeremy Hunt said this week he would not mind the UK entering a recession if meant inflation coming down
Jeremy Hunt said this week he would not mind the UK entering a recession if meant inflation coming down. Picture: Getty

Read More: Food inflation ‘is too high’, PM says, as SNP warn of ‘cost-of-greed crisis’

Read More: UK’s inflation rate drops to 8.7%, down from over 10% in March - but food prices still surging at 19%

With the overall rate of inflation falling to 8.7 per cent, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the decrease was mainly driven by gas and electricity costs remaining stable in April.

It is the first time the CPI has been below 10 per cent in eight months.

Food prices soar over last 12 months

Food inflation has soared in recent months
Food inflation has soared in recent months. Picture: ONS

Overall food prices are surging in price, though some staple products - such as bread and milk - are rising slightly less quickly.

Over the last 12 months, the average price of granulated sugar has increased by 47 per cent - now standing at an average price of £1.08 - while cheddar cheese prices have soared by 39 per cent (£3.77)

  • Eggs (12) - 37 per cent price increase (£3.29)
  • Milk (2 pints) - 33 per cent price increase (£1.30)
  • White bread (sliced) - 28 per cent increase (£1.39)
  • Chicken (whole) - 23 per cent increase (£3.79/kg)

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Biden Earth Day

US poised to send billion-dollar package of military aid to Ukraine

Sadiq Khan has been criticised over his "shocking" policing record

Sadiq Khan challenged over ‘shocking’ record on policing in London as Mayoral rivals say people ‘do not feel safe’

Susan Hall has dismissed Ed Miliband's claim that she would be an 'embarrassment' to Britain as the next London mayor.

Susan Hall dismisses as 'nonsense’ after Ed Miliband said she would be an ‘embarrassment’ as London Mayor

Obit William Strickland

William Strickland, civil rights activist and friend of Malcolm X, dies aged 87

Doctor Sexual Abuse

US government agrees £111 million settlement over Larry Nassar allegations

Israel Palestinians

Tent compound rises in southern Gaza as Israel prepares for Rafah offensive

The pair clashed over free school meals during an LBC Mayoral debate

‘No such thing as a free lunch’: Susan Hall and Sadiq Khan clash over free school meals at LBC Mayoral debate

The child was abducted outside Harrods

Girl, 9, 'snatched' from outside Harrods while shopping with parents as man, 56, arrested

Russia US Journalist

Moscow court rejects US journalist Evan Gershkovich’s appeal

Tom Gilbey completed the marathon under five hours

‘How I drank 26 glasses of wine and still finished the London Marathon in under five hours’

Trump Hush Money

Judge conducts hearing on request to hold Trump in contempt for online posts

The man with auto-brewery syndrome worked in a brewery

Belgian man whose body produces its own alcohol cleared of drink driving

Brian 'The Guvnor' Reader has died aged 84

Hatton Garden heist ringleader Brian 'The Guvnor' Reader dies aged 84 after earning more than £200m from criminal raids

Officers caught the thief while on a stag do

Met officers on Barcelona stag do tackle thief who targeted restaurant 'full of UK police'

The fire broke out shortly after 10pm on Sunday evening

Murder investigation launched after two people killed in house fire in east London

Rishi Sunak is in Poland with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps

Britain will boost defence spending by billions of pounds by 2030, Sunak announces