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Christmas dinner is going to be a significantly more expensive affair this year

Christmas is coming…and dinner’s getting pricier

Steady your stockings and temper your tree, because Christmas dinner is going to be a significantly more expensive affair this year.

Feeding a family of eight will cost 16% more than last year, even if you choose the cheapest supermarket, according to Good Housekeeping’s annual Christmas Dinner price survey, published today.

This year’s cheapest basket came from Lidl at just £25.53 for turkey, all the trimmings, and pudding. That compares with £22.03 for last year’s cheapest, which was from Aldi.

All in all, nine out of 10 supermarkets were more expensive this year than last, according to the survey, with M&S the only one to have cut the cost of Christmas dinner – down from £49.40 in 2016 to £38.43 this year.

Only one item, Christmas pudding, was cheaper in the supermarkets than last year, with everything else – from turkey and stuffing to sprouts and potatoes, more expensive.

Of course the definitive insight into the cost of Christmas will come with The Grocer 33 Christmas edition on 16 December, but this snapshot is an early indication of how things are shaping up this year.

It’s not the best start to the festive season, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise in Brexit Britain. As Mintel director of retail research Richard Perks points out, food prices have been rising across the board as a result of the weakening of sterling following the EU referendum vote, and retailers wouldn’t be able to buck the trend without taking an unacceptable hit on profitability.

The mults started hiking prices for fresh meat and poultry in January, just six months after the Brexit vote, and since then we’ve seen everything from bananas to olive oil, smoked salmon, cereal and spirits get more expensive. And let’s not forget shrinkflation – which came to the public attention with Toblerone’s shock chopping of triangles, but has subsequently been embraced by food brands as diverse as Doritos, Peperami and Richmond sausages.

Just last week, we reported that festive chocolate favourites were more expensive than last Christmas because the major mults have scaled back on promotions, hiked prices and switched to smaller sizes.

Worryingly for British shoppers, this might only be the tip of the iceberg. A new report published this week by the European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV) warned a hard Brexit would be “catastrophic” for the UK and EU meat industries – with higher consumer prices just one nasty consequence if a free trade deal is not agreed.

Prices for key commodities like sugar, cocoa, coffee and wheat are also likely to surge over the next 12 months, according to Rabobank, which warned last week that Brexit has left the UK particularly vulnerable to the impact of global food price threats such as the looming return of La Niña weather conditions.

And a mounting labour crisis in our fields means even British-grown fruit & veg is likely to inflate further in the coming months.

Price rises are already taking their toll on consumer spending. According to recent research by Visa, high street spending is set to slump by 2.1% over the Christmas period – the biggest fall seen since 2012 and the third successive year of a fall in in-store activity. 

With the uncertainty around Brexit already putting a bigger squeeze on wages than Ebenezer Scrooge, British supermarkets will no doubt be haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Future as they prepare to get festive this year.

Bah humbug to that.