Increases in food costs are being blamed for consumer price inflation, with official government figures showing the UK consumer prices index (CPI) rose by 9.1% in the 12 months to May 2022.
It is the highest CPI figure in 40 years, and the warning to consumers is that worse is yet to come.
With fertiliser costs trebling in the last year and energy costs doubling, rising food prices are an inevitable consequence, and no surprise to any farmer.
Analysis undertaken by agribusiness consultants at the Andersons Centre recently put agri-inflation at over 25%, significantly ahead of the government CPI figure.
Despite the inflationary pressures, retail meat prices recorded by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) show that some cuts of beef and pork have changed little in price over the last couple of years.
Since 2019, analysts at AHDB have been recording weekly online price data for beef, lamb and pork sold by major UK supermarket chains.
Over the last 12 months, diced beef, lean mince, sirloin steak and rump steak all recorded price increases of over 14%. But roasting joints are up only 4.3%, with virtually no change in the price of fillet steak and standard mince.
However, comparing back to June 2020 data, current prices for all cuts outside of rump and sirloin steak, are virtually unchanged.
Back in June 2020, NI prime cattle were averaging 354p/kg, compared to 437p/kg now, so it would suggest others down the supply chain are now taking less margin than they were. Strong demand from other outlets outside of retail has also driven the price of beef in 2022.
It is a different situation in lamb, with the AHDB analysis showing fairly significant retail price increases in the last 12 months across a range of cuts. Lamb chops are up 15%, whole legs up 14% and standard mince up 17%.
Towards the end of June 2021 farmers were getting around 565p/kg for lamb. At recent prices around the 645p/kg mark, it is a 14% increase in the returns to farmers.
Across pork products, retail prices are also up, but there is significant variability depending on the individual cut. Loin steaks are up nearly 25% in price, and pork chops up 13%, however, there is little change in lean mince and ribs.
While farmgate prices have finally risen in recent weeks towards the cost of production, and are now about 15% above those from June 2021, input prices have escalated. It has been a sustained period of heavy losses for pig producers.