Canned beef prices are set to soar by up to a third in the coming months due to cattle shortages in South America.

Products ranging from corned beef to stewed steak are expected to rise in price after the Brazilian industry was hit by major cost hikes.

A 340g can of corned beef retails for about £1.50, with stewed steak averaging £1.95. But sources say those prices will rise to at least £2 and £2.50 respectively by the summer.

"Normally prices ease at this time of the year but with herds down by a third, slaughterhouses have been working reduced hours and raw material costs for Brazilian producers are at an all-time high," said one importer.

The position has been exacerbated by shortages in Argentina, where 10 million cattle have been killed in the past year including many breeding cows as farmers liquidate stocks to switch to more profitable forms of agriculture.

The weakness of sterling against the US dollar has added to the cost, which together with rising sea freight prices has led to further calls from importers for higher prices from supermarkets.

Ye Olde Oak, which sold a small volume of corned beef last year sourced from Argentina, would not be selling any this year as returns had not justified the investment, said sales director David Coles.

"I would have gone back in a big way this year if the price had been a bit higher," he said. "It's a commoditised market. Cost prices have firmed significantly and currency is not in our favour."

These are tough times for canned foods, with prices already having risen as a result of tin plate and ingredient costs increases.

Further price rises could derail industry efforts to interest shoppers in cooking using canned meat, according to one supermarket supplier. "There has been renewed interest in corned beef as younger customers have been attracted by its versatility in recipes, but that will be difficult to sustain at the projected new price tickets," he said.