Apples, bananas and grapes are feeling the retail price squeeze but cucumbers and mushrooms have soared in price in the past month, says Richard Ford

Despite supermarkets ramping up their fresh produce promotions and offering more value lines, mushroom suppliers at least have been given a reprieve in the ongoing supermarket price squeeze.

Loose closed cup mushrooms have experienced sizeable price increases of 16.4% month-on-month and 22.2% year-on-year.

The increase in retail prices reflects the improvement in prices paid to suppliers of pre-packed mushrooms by the multiples, according to John Smith, chairman of mushroom grower Greyfriars. Those increases reflected higher costs in mushroom production, such as the price of imported compost, he said. “To their credit, I believe the supermarkets have done the right thing, not only to help the growers survive but to secure the long-term supply of mushrooms,” he added.

After years of mushroom growers facing increased competition from countries such as Ireland and the Netherlands, “it’s good to see a situation where the UK mushroom industry is going to see sensible returns again”, he said.

The reduction in the price of bagged potatoes, of 7.9% over the past month can be attributed to good availability, which in turn has increased the number of promotions, according to Tesco potato buyer Jonathan Corbett. If it had not been for the promotions on potatoes, the price would have remained static, he said.

The cheapest apples on display have dropped 21.2% in price since last month and 1.7% year-on-year.

“Of all the lines out there they’ve been chipped away at the most,” said Alan Griffiths, procurement manager at Orchard World. This strategy reflects the multiples’ desire to draw in a particular type of customer, he added.

Just as banana prices started to climb during the course of last year, yet again the price has seen a month-on-month decrease of 13%. This is evidence of retailers “trying to fight their shopping basket battles over the price of bananas”, according to group marketing manager of JP fresh, Dickon Poole.

As retailers watch each others’ banana prices “like a hawk”, “somebody decided to crash it again and down it went”. The price of bananas fluctuated to such an extent that the consumer was unlikely to be aware of the cost of bananas any more, he added.

Carrots have not escaped the price hikes faced by the rest of the fresh produce industry, such as the increase in fuel and fertiliser costs, which is evident by the 24.9% increase in price, year-on-year. However, now bucking the trend, the price of carrots has remained steady over the past month, reducing only 0.6 percentage points. This is likely to be due to the many market forces at play maintaining an equilibrium, according to Martin Evans, chairman of the British Carrot Growers’ Association.

The biggest price hike that came out of this week’s basket was on cucumbers, which soared 45.7% month-on-month and 62.3% year-on-year. Although growers were not keen to comment on why this might be, one source suggested it was the ­result of a “fundamental change to the [cucumber-growing] infrastructure”.