Sunak looks to curb basic food prices in fight against inflation

FILE PHOTO: A person wearing a backpack looks at food goods in a shop as UK inflation heads towards 10% in London, Britain, June 16, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

LONDON: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government is seeking an agreement with supermarkets to voluntarily limit prices on basic food items like bread and milk in order to tackle inflation.

The government is working with supermarkets to address food prices and the cost of living, and in a way that is “very mindful to the impact on suppliers,” Health Secretary Steve Barclay said in an interview on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme.

“This is about having constructive discussions with supermarkets about how we can work together (and alleviate the hardships being experience), not about any element of compulsion,” Barclay said.

The story was first reported by The Sunday Telegraph, which said the proposals are at drawing board stage.

Sunak has made reducing consumer prices a centerpiece of government policy and has pledged to get inflation to around 5% by the end of the year.

Sunak, who assumed office in October 2022 and previously served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2020 to 2022 under Boris Johnson, is running out of time to achieve the mark.

The UK inflation rate has defied forecasts for three months in a row, extending further into everyday items from groceries to mobile phone bills.

The rate was at 8.7% in April, down from more than 10% at the start of the year.

If introduced, a cap would be the strongest attempt in managing prices since controls were established by then conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath in the 1970s.

The proposal is reminiscent of an agreement in France, where retailers agreed to charge the “lowest possible amount” for some essential items.

Earlier this month, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire announced an extension of the initiative. — Bloomberg

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