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Ulster Fry Index cooks up food price inflation

Costly tomatoes, sausages, butter and mushrooms have contributed to an increase in Northern Ireland’s food price inflation as the agri-food sector adjusted to the impact of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

That’s according to Ulster Bank’s Ulster Fry Index which looks at the price change in the key constituents of the iconic breakfast dish.

It climbed by 1.7% on the year and is expected to increase in the coming year as the true impact of supply issues related to Brexit are felt, the bank’s Chief Northern Ireland Economist Richard Ramsey said.

Tomatoes climbed by some 15% as the result of a poor harvest and a long winter while sausages were up 5% and butter 3.7%, thought to be as a result of supply issues related to Brexit.

Mr Ramsey said as the food chain grappled with Covid-19, it faced increased costs which have be passed down the chain to the consumer

However, while many items were in positive territory in this year’s index, others fell as the diverging effects of Brexit, the pandemic and inclement weather.

The cost of eggs fell 7% as a result of oversupply due to restrictions on the hospitality sector while milk, tea and margarine also fell.

“This year’s rise in the Index follows two consecutive years of falls, but the long-term trend is very much upwards,” he said. “The Ulster Fry Index is 6.5 percent higher than it was five years ago and 23 percent higher than it was at the time of the last recession in 2008.

“The Ulster Bank Ulster Fry Index is intended to be a way to engage consumers in economics and to help communicate what’s happening with indicators like inflation. It is also a way of highlighting the important role of our agri food sector, which brings us our bacon, eggs, butter and much more, and to create understanding of how the economics of the agri-food sector work.”

While prices for consumers have risen, it’s unlikely farmers have been able to benefit.

Latest government figures showed farming incomes in Northern Ireland up 27% but because of the associated hike in the costs of fuel, fertilizer and other inputs, profit margins remain slim for many farmers.

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