A steep rise in fruit prices last month helped to push inflation up from 1.8% to 2.1%, according to the Office for National Statistics.

But some in the produce industry have questioned the figures, which purported to show a 6% increase in the price of fresh fruit - particularly strawberries and bananas.

Berryworld chairman Laurence Olins admitted strawberry prices had increased by 11% - but at the start of the season, not last month. "We got an extra 20p on a 454g punnet, by way of a price correction," said Olins. "Over the last four years there's been no increase, while labour costs have continued to rise."

Meanwhile, banana prices were 20% lower last month than during the summer because a supermarket price war had slashed the price to 68p/kg.

"There's not enough value in the chain after years of devaluation in food," said NFU chief horticulture adviser, Phil Hudson.

"We're just beginning to get some value back into the chain."