The cost of living crisis is getting worse, and it’s impacting households up and down the country.
In March, drivers were hit by the largest monthly spike in petrol and diesel prices on record, despite a cut in fuel duty, while this month has already seen electricity and gas prices skyrocket due to the introduction of the new energy price cap.
But it’s not just the cost of energy bills and fuel that are hitting Brits hard. A whole load of products and services are seeing price increases due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the global pandemic recovery effort.
READMORE: Drivers hit by biggest monthly fuel price hike on record – despite 5p tax cut
Paying more for energy, food, council tax, transport, rent and mortgage bills is eating into household incomes, while the financial wellbeing of households, in general, is at its lowest point in two years, according to the latest Scottish Widows index. Here are some of the other things getting more expensive as the cost of living crisis bites.
Bread, milk and eggs
Keeping your fridge stocked up with these three kitchen staples is unlikely to break the bank – but the everyday products are costing more than usual.
Ukraine is a top producer of wheat, which has soared in price with the ongoing crisis leading to fears around shortages. Meanwhile, fresh milk prices are up by 10.1 per cent, while the price of eggs is up 7.4 per cent, according to the latest inflation figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
And experts have warned that the price rises are unlikely to start slowing down any time soon.
The UK boss of dairy giant Arla said customers are going to face higher prices to buy a pint of milk, as farmers are being squeezed by soaring costs, warning that the industry was “calling time on cheap milk”. Farmers have been facing squeezed milk prices for years. In the last 10 years consumer prices have gone up to 26 per cent as a whole, but the price of milk has dropped by 7 per cent in the same period.
Industry experts have said that the rapidly increasing cost of producing eggs will also likely have to be passed on to consumers. The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) said customers will start seeing shortages on supermarket shelves unless costs are recovered. Farmers were already losing money on every egg they produced due to feed cost increases, but the problem has now been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, which has added 25p to 30p per dozen.
Both Russia and Ukraine are major suppliers of sunflower oil, which is now in short supply across the globe. With two large producers practically out of the picture, demand is high for the product and, inevitably, prices are on the up.
The majority of the UK’s sunflower oil comes from Ukraine and Brits spend almost £400 million a year on cooking oil in general. In the space of a year, sunflower oil has gone up by 17p to £1.34 a litre, according to NielsenIQ Scantrack data, the Guardian reports. Right after Russia invaded Ukraine, the price of the oil jumped 60 per cent, from £1,130 per tonne in February to over £1,800 in March, according to analysts at Mintec.
The product is also a key ingredient in other food items. As the conflict in Ukraine continues, some food businesses are having to switch from sunflower oil to rapeseed oil to ensure certain food products can still be manufactured.
dairy milk chocolate
The price of a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate is staying the same. However, the company has announced that it will be shrinking the size of the bars. That means consumers will technically be paying more for the chocolate.
Cadbury has reduced the size of Dairy Milk sharing bars by 10 per cent, a move that sees the larger bars drop from 200g to 180g. The bars are still being typically sold at £2.
Parent company Mondelez blamed rising inflation on the production of its chocolate. “We’re facing the same challenges that so many other food companies have already reported when it comes to significantly increased production costs – whether it’s ingredients, energy or packaging – and rising inflation,” a spokesperson said. “This means that our products are much more expensive to make.”
fish and chips
The global seafood industry is another sector facing uncertainty due to the situation in Ukraine. New rounds of economic sanctions on Russia are making it harder to get hold of key species such as cod and crab.
Russia is one of the largest producers of seafood in the world, and was the fifth-largest producer of wild-caught fish, according to a 2020 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. But now, countries are punishing Russia over its invasion of Ukraine by banning imports of seafood and other products.
Fish and chip shop owners are bracing for price surges as the European Union and the UK are both deeply dependent on Russian seafood. In mid-March, the UK slapped a 35 per cent tariff hike on Russian whitefish, including chip shop staples cod and haddock.
The average annual cost of a nursery place for a child under the age of two has risen by nearly £1,500 in five years, according to analysis from the Labor Party. It comes after a recent survey by Pregnant Then Screwed and Mumsnet found that 40 per cent of mothers were having to work fewer hours than they would like due to childcare costs.
The average weekly cost of a full-time nursery place for children under two in England has risen 16 per cent in five years, from £236.19 in 2018 to £273.57 in 2022, according to analysis of the Coram Family and Childcare annual surveys. The research also suggests that for primary school children, the average cost of an after-school club has risen 17 per cent over the same period.
Childcare providers struggled to remain sustainable during the coronavirus crisis, with nearly 40 per cent of local authorities in England seeing providers raise their prices in 2021, while some providers reduced the number of free early education entitlement places offered.
Baby products also appear to be soaring in price with parents seeing a rise in the cost of sleeping bags, baby carriers and travel cots among other items. Price comparison website PriceRunner found that average prices in some categories rocketed by as much as nearly 40 per cent over the last year.
The average price in the sleeping bags category was £27 at the start of 2021, but by February this year, the average price was £37 – an increase of 37 per cent. The average price of travel cots increased by nearly a quarter, while there was also a £2 increase in the baby food containers and milk powder dispensers category.
Over the Christmas period, the baby equipment sector saw one of the most significant declines across the retail industry. Experts have suggested that a reduction in the birth rate may be weighing on sales for baby-related items in recent months.
Eating out – and eating in
With life returning to normal after the coronavirus pandemic put the country into lockdown, Brits are returning to restaurants and bars to eat out in high numbers – but it’s becoming an expensive option.
Now that VAT rates are back to 20 per cent, the cost of buying a pub meal or a drink, or even a hotel stay, could become more expensive. The industry saw VAT drop to 5 per cent to support its recovery during the pandemic, but businesses struggled to pass the benefits of the tax break onto their customers. Bosses said lengthy Covid disruption, significant debts and soaring cost inflation in recent months meant that the reduced tax level was instead used to help absorb costs.
Industry chiefs, including Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin and Young’s boss Patrick Dardis, have said that prices will now have to increase significantly for customers as a result of the VAT change. Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said the VAT rate increase alone is expected to cost UK pubs more than £500 million over the next year.
On the other hand, eating in is getting more expensive too. The cost of groceries is now 5.2 per cent higher than it was a year ago. and grocery price inflation has led to many shoppers turning to cheaper products and supermarket own-brand labels as they try and cut the cost of a weekly shop.
The ONS said that 58 per cent of food and beverage businesses had reported passing on price rises to customers in March.
A new tax on plastic packaging might add to the cost of plastic-packed products. The tax only applies to packaging that is made with less than 30 per cent recycled plastic, so will likely only affect packaging that can’t be made from recycled plastic.
But it does mean that some plastic-packaged products could rise in price to cover the cost of the new tax. Experts have told the Financial Times that foods that are wrapped or packed in the type of plastic that cannot be recycled, as well as containers such as soup pots, might be among the items that go up in price as a result.
Food manufacturers are expected to be the worst affected, but retailers importing items such as bin liners and carrier bags are also likely to be hit hard. Manufacturers of items such as bubble wrap and the plastic used to laminate books are also going to be impacted.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.