Cost-of-living crisis: Food inflation could soar to 19% next year, expert warns

EMBARGOED TO 0001 WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 2 Undated file photo of a person holding a shopping basket in a supermarket, as food inflation soared to a record 11.6% in October as even basics such as tea bags, milk and sugar all saw significant price rises, figures show.
Food inflation hit 14.6% in the 12 months to September according to the Office for National Statistics. (PA)

A senior economist has warned that "daunting" food inflation could soar to between 17% and 19% next year amid the worsening cost-of-living crisis.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), food inflation in the 12 months to September hit 14.6% - significantly higher than overall consumer price index (CPI) inflation, which was 10.1%.

James Walton, chief economist at the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), warned MPs in parliament on Tuesday afternoon that the worst is yet to come.

Read more: Revealed: The 15 items from your weekly shop increasing in price the fastest

"Consumer food price inflation currently around 15%," Walton told the food and rural affairs select committee.

"This is as bad as it's been to date - but we do think it will go further.

"Today, we've issued a new forecast... [we expect it] will probably peak in the first part of next year, between 17% and 19%... that is a fairly daunting prospect.

"We think that inflation will start to dissipate over the course of 2023, but it will still be above zero by the end of the year."

Walton also warned that food stress is no longer an issue which which is primarily facing those on lower incomes.

The cost of living is soaring in the UK (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
The cost of living is soaring in the UK (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

"Food stress is becoming increasingly prevalent in the UK," said Walton.

"Not just amongst the least well off households, but actually amongst households further up the income ladder."

Last week, polling by YouGov revealed that one in six Britons are not confident they can afford to feed their families.

Young people are the age group struggling most the rising cost of groceries, with 26% of 18-24 year olds reporting they are borrowing money to afford food bills.

In September, the Food Foundation warned one in five families are facing food poverty.

New prime minister Rishi Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt are coming under pressure amid the rising prices to provide more cost of living support next week where they will deliver their autumn statement.

Read more: The recession we have been dreading is about to strike

The pair have pledged that the most vulnerable will be protected, however they have refused to confirm whether a planned inflationary increase in benefits and pensions will go ahead - warning of decisions of "eye-watering difficulty" on tax and spending.

On Tuesday, new work and pensions secretary Mel Stride said it would not be right to "pre-judge and "pre-empt" measures in the budget on 17 November.

“Within those hard choices, there is a core mission that this government has and that is to look after the most vulnerable…" said Stride.

"This government cares about those that have the least, and is there to protect them at every turn.”

Watch: Martin Lewis warns cost of living crisis will hit people harder in spring than winter