The UK’s soaring food prices are a concern to policy makers and households alike

The official statistics reveal that sweet potatoes are the best way to keep your pounds in your pocket.

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, the price of orange tubers rose by only 2% in the 12 months ending in March. This is exactly in line the inflation targets of the Bank of England. The overall food price, on the other hand, rose 19.2 percent.

Sweet potatoes, the only sweet potato that ONS considers in the “other tubers and tuber vegetables” category, will not help much with household costs of living. On average, families in the UK spend only PS0.30 per PS1,000 on sweet potatoes. Food, in general, accounts for PS107.

Prices are rising across nearly all food categories, which is changing consumer behaviour and worrying policymakers.

The ONS Consumer Inflation Measure includes a list of food items that are experiencing rapid price increases.

Sugar prices increased by 32 percent in the past year. Milk, cheese, and other dairy products also saw inflation rates of over 30 percent.

The BoE is aware that it will not be able to meet its inflation target unless food prices drop significantly.

In response to the rising price of food, many households are shopping at cheaper supermarkets, purchasing less, and trading down to lower-priced items.

The latest retail figures show that the volume of food purchased in non-specialised stores (including supermarkets) fell by 4.4% in the last year. The drop in sales came despite an increase of 8.9% in spending at these stores.

Most UK households have experienced a situation where they spend more but get less.

Esme Harwood is a director of Barclaycard. She said that a March survey by the company found that almost all shoppers are concerned about inflation in food prices and over six out of 10 are looking for ways to save money, whether by reducing luxuries or finding special deals, or by avoiding waste.

She said that the rise in grocery expenditures below inflation shows how hard Brits still try to save money on their weekly shopping.

Fraser McKevitt said that the primary way in which households reacted to the recession was “by buying cheaper goods”. The market research group collected data that showed the spending on cheaper own-label goods increased by 16.5% in the year up to March. Branded goods only rose 7.5%.

Policymakers are concerned about the food inflation because shoppers are aware of prices and will notice when they increase. This could exaggerate the perception of price increases, and encourage people to be more aggressive in seeking wage rises.

The UK is not the only advanced economy that has experienced high food inflation. Food inflation rates in the EU were identical to those of the UK at 19.2% per cent for March. However, they were higher for Portugal and Sweden, as well as Germany. In March, the rate in Hungary was 44.8%.

Retailers claim that food inflation is the result of the energy and commodity price increases over the last year, along with the poor harvests. They also say the sterling has been weakening and the crisis may soon be over.

Helen Dickinson is the chief executive of British Retail Consortium. This trade group said that food inflation “is likely to slow down in the coming month as we enter into the UK growing seasons”.

Dickinson emphasized that high food prices were not a sign of greed by large supermarkets. She said that retailers are committed to keeping prices low and helping customers.