UK supermarkets cut food prices, but Indian groceries remain dearer

June 27th, 2008 - 2:33 pm ICT by IANS  

By Venkata Vemuri
London, June 27 (IANS) British supermarkets have launched a food price war, announcing cuts in fresh and frozen food items to woo back customers already grappling with rising fuel and energy bills. However, Indian food items, including fresh vegetables, are so far out of the purview of the reductions. Top supermarket Tesco has announced it will cut prices of 3,000 items from Monday. Rival Asda lost no time announcing that it will sell 10 staple items, including eggs, bread and butter, for only 50 pence, from Friday till Sunday, reports The Times.

Other supermarket chains like Sainsbury’s Morrisons and German-owned Aldi have also announced price cutting measures, specially in the frozen and fresh food categories.

Andy Clarke, Asda’s retail director, said: “It’s going to be a tough year and the retailers that drive value the hardest will win with customers.”

A Tesco spokeswoman said: “As our customers face tougher times we are doing everything we can to help them make ends meet.”

The price cuts address British food items, while prices of world foods continue to be high. Among the world foods, the most popular are Asian. The Asians consume a sizeable amount of British food, though a majority of them cannot do without staples like rice, wheat and lentils.

The Indian community, without exception, buys Indian vegetables. The supermarkets stock all Asian foods, but their prices have gone up - in some cases even doubled - in the last six months.

Samata Shetty, a housewife in Leicester, says her family’s grocery bill has shot up by around 100 pounds a week, primarily because the vegetables and rice have become dearer. A 20-kg bag of good quality Basmati rice comes for under 40 pounds, whereas it was selling for nearly half the price seven months ago. Same is the case with vegetables and oil.

A supermarket manager in Leicester says their hands are tied as the prices rise whenever the exporting countries tighten exports.

Food analysts say rising prices of food have contributed vastly to the inflation figures and they expect the prices to keep rising this year. Only the big supermarkets can afford to cut down the prices, but for how long, they ask.

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