The price of food in the United Kingdom (UK) rose at the fastest pace in 45 years last month in, keeping inflation above 10% for a seventh straight month amid a cost-of-living crisis that has fueled a wave of strikes by government workers.
Food prices jumped 19.2% in the 12 months through February, the biggest increase since August 1977, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday.
Overall, consumer price inflation eased to 10.1%, from 10.4% the previous month, as the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel fell. The March figure was above the 9.8% rate economists had forecast.
“The heat has been turned down on the bubbling cauldron of prices, but inflation is still scalding and interest rates look set to be pushed up again to try and cool it down rapidly,” said Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown in London.
The British government and Bank of England are struggling to prevent price increases triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from becoming embedded in the economy. While the U.K.’s inflation rate has remained above 10% for eight of the past nine months, inflation slowed to 5% in the U.S. and 6.9% in the countries sharing the euro last month.
Double-digit inflation has led to strikes from public sector workers, including doctors, nurses, teachers, civil servants and train drivers, whose wages are being eroded by the rising cost of living.
The Bank of England has approved 11 consecutive interest rate increases in an effort to tame inflation. That pushed the bank’s key interest rate to 4.25% last month, from just 0.1% in December 2021, raising borrowing costs for consumers and businesses.