Will you get what you need for Christmas?

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Price, Supply and demand

'Tis the season for stocking up for Christmas. But after a year of rising food prices and other factors affecting supply certain seasonal ingredients, it may cost a little more to make the table groan under the weight edible goodies.

After flooding in the UK over the summer caused lower than usual fruit and vegetable​ harvests, growers and industry experts warned that the price of British produce was likely to rise towards the end of 2007. This, it seems, has come to pass. According to retail researcher ESA, the price of frozen peas has increased by between 23 and 65 per cent, and there have also been hikes for Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. The Wall Street Journal​ stoked fears two weeks ago that there is a shortage of cranberries​ this year, an essential ingredient in the sauce to accompany turkey. The newspaper put this down to a combination of an unusually warm summer in the US and increased demand. However Ocean Spray, which claims to produce two-thirds of cranberries in the US, said that its harvest was not affected at all. Rather it said that fears of a shortage stem from increased consumer demand, as the red berry comes under more and more scrutiny for its health benefits. In the UK market, consumer demand is also said to have an impact on availability of goose fat​, according to The Times​. Last year celebrity chef Nigella Lawson declared goose fat to be an essential ingredient for the perfect roast, prompting a predicted 70 per cent increase in demand, according to supplier Highgrove Foods. The trouble is, bird 'flu hit the three main goose-producing countries this year - France, Hungary and Poland, and since geese are reared outside, they are particularly susceptible to the disease. Moreover, for the first time food manufacturers have started using goose fat in certain products, such as frozen roast potatoes. This means home-cookers have a race on their hands:"If more than three million people want to buy goose fat, it will run out,"​ Caroline Shaw of the Goose Fat Information Service told The Times.Turkey​ producers were warning in mid-November that the price of a fresh 14lb (6.35kg) Christmas turkey could increase from £38 to £42 (c €53 to €58) this year, as a result of the bird flu outbreak, according to IC Wales​. Not only was Bernard Matthews hit by an outbreak in February, but last month a free-range farm in East Anglia, the county from which a third of UK-reared turkey hail, was found to have the disease. Supermarkets reportedly said, however, that turkey supply and demand had not been affected by the latest outbreak. Finally, figures from Datagain show price increases for essential ingredients in sweet meals and British-style Christmas cake in September - around the time when the cakes should be prepared to allow enough time for maturation and a good alcohol soaking. Currants​ cost £698 (c €970) per tonne, up 6.89 per cent on the previous month, and eggs​ - sales of which usually rise by around 50 per cent in the UK around Christmas time - cost €4.68 per kilo, up a whopping 15.27 per cent on August. The egg price phenomenon is said to have been sparked by the doubling of the costs of wheat and soya, prime feed for egg-laying hens, so that it now accounts for half the cost of keeping them. High dairy prices meant that the increase in butter​ prices even outstripped that of eggs, rising by 16.49 per cent to £3419 (c €4750) per tonne.

Related topics: Dairy-based ingredients

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