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Food prices could rise by 5% as energy prices soar and lorry driver shortage bites, warns Tesco boss

·3 min read
A delivery lorry outside a Tesco Express store in central London (PA Wire)
A delivery lorry outside a Tesco Express store in central London (PA Wire)

A major supermarket boss has warned food prices could rise by five per cent this winter as families also face cuts to benefits and soaring fuel prices.

Tesco chairman John Allan admitted it was unclear how long the significant price rises, brought about by inflation, labour shortages and energy costs, are likely to be in place.

"I think it’s almost impossible to forecast, but I mean I think we’re probably looking at, for food overall, you know, mid-single digit increases which is much higher than we’ve had in recent years,” he told ITV’s Robert Peston on Wednesday night.

“I think certainly while we get through this particular set of issues that we’re contending with, which include shortage of labour in a number of important areas of food manufacturing, shortage of HGV drivers, which can be fixed, and we’re all working very hard to fix.”

The supermarket chain has also warned the Government that it has a shortfall of 800 drivers and is concerned about panic buying in the run up to Christmas if the nationwide crisis is not addressed.

“There are some very, very substantial risks out there,” he said. “I don’t think the end result will be a horrendous crisis at Christmas, and I would hate people to get the impression that we’re going to have a terrible Christmas, they’ve got to go out and panic buy, because so much effort is going into averting that, that I think it’s going to be much better than perhaps people fear."

Mr Allan added that the shortage of carbon dioxide is also causing chaos in the food production industry.

It comes Citizens Advice warned as many as 1.5 million working people could be forced into hardship this winter by the “disastrous decision” to withdraw the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift.

Research carried out by the advice provider suggested that two-thirds of working claimants are bracing themselves to face hardship when the uplift is abolished at the end of the month.

Financial fears include struggling to pay their bills, getting into debt or being forced to sell belongings to make up for the shortfall in their income.

Another quarter of working claimants could face even greater difficulties, the bureau’s research, which was published on Thursday, revealed.

The organisation said as many as 600,000 working Universal Credit (UC) claimants are worried they might not be able to afford food or other basic necessities like toiletries after the reduction in their income is introduced.

The Government provided an additional £20 per week to UC recipients at the outbreak of the pandemic but Chancellor Rishi Sunak has so far been adamant it must end by October.

The uplift was meant to last a year but was extended by six months in the March Budget.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "With energy bills set to rise and family finances already stretched to the limit, this cut is coming at the worst possible time.

"Shop workers, nursery assistants and security guards are just some of the people on Universal Credit seeking our help because they’re already struggling to make ends meet.”

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