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Britons have been warned to brace themselves for an increase in food prices as plunging temperatures leave farmers unable to harvest vegetables and hauliers struggle to distribute fresh produce.
Concerns have now switched to food supply. Sub-zero temperatures have made it impossible to extract some vegetables from the ground. Producers of brussels sprouts and cabbages are all reporting problems with harvesting. Cauliflowers are said to have turned to "mush" in the sustained frost, with the result that only imported ones are available – at more than £2 each.
"Food is selling fast and there is a problem with replenishing it," said Stephen Alambritis of the Federation of Small Businesses. "One business I spoke to said it was like Christmas Eve, with people rushing to buy up food. This will inevitably have an impact on food prices."
Food prices have started to edge up after a sustained period of low inflation. Food inflation increased by 3.7% in December, up from 2.8% in November, said the British Retail Consortium.