The figure is the highest in the history of the Index and continues a surge in prices since the start of the year. The number is 3.4 percentage points higher than in February, when year-on-year inflation reached double digits for the first time.
By comparison, inflation in March 2021 – when the UK was still under widespread Covid restrictions – was just 0.1%.
Seven of the 10 categories measured by the Price Index were in double-digit inflation in March 2022 – and five recorded increase of more than 20%. Prices in the oils & fats category are now more than 50% higher than just one year ago, while the breads % cereals segment has also increased dramatically.
These other categories, including fish, have been heavily impacted by the war in Ukraine, a major supplier of commodities like oils and grains. With shortages likely to continue for some time, further volatility in prices can be expected.
Prestige Purchasing chief executive Shaun Allen thought the war between Russia and Ukraine looked like to push inflation even higher in coming months.
The conflict, he believed, was truly multidimensional. “It’s reduced production levels of food staples such as grains and oils, it’s driven up the cost of distribution by increasing oil prices, and it’s raised the cost of energy by restricting gas supplies,” he said.
He added: “Inflation may calm later in the year, but prices are unlikely to fall for the foreseeable future. Actively managing supply increases using smart buying strategies and reliable market data is critical to mitigating impacts in this highly volatile market.”
A number of pressures
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has heightened the impact of other major inflationary pressures, including the soaring costs of energy, fuel, transportation and labour. High levels of inflation are also being seen in categories of the index, including fruit, dairy and soft drinks, while chicken prices are rising sharply too.
CGA client director James Ashurst said: “Two years on from the start of the Covid crisis, there is little sign of price pressures easing in the foodservice sector.
“Supply problems in Ukraine and elsewhere come on top of soaring costs that are causing major stress for businesses that were weakened by successive lockdowns—and the squeeze on consumers’ disposable income is starting to impact all sectors too.
“While we hope for some respite as we go deeper into 2022, high inflation is going to be with us for some time to come.”