The past year in fresh food has been characterised by almost universal retail price rises as farmers and growers passed on production cost increases. The weakening pound means consumers are unlikely to see those prices fall in 2009.

This year, meat and poultry prices have been among the fastest rising, up 18.5%. Red meat has been the major driver of this price growth, with beef mince, for example, soaring 31.8% to £5.78/kg.

The rises were a result of feed, electricity and fuel cost increases at farm level, said Richard Cullen, category development manager at AHDB Meat Services.

Prices next year were likely to remain firm and consumers should not expect decreases, added Cullen. In fact, pork prices rose 4% in November as the UK - which imports more than 50% of its pork products - suffered the cost of the weakening pound.

Beef prices have risen this year because retailers found it harder to import from South America, said Cullen. Brazil was hit by an EU beef ban, while Argentina's government made it difficult for producers to export.

Although more meat was likely to become available next year from South America, exchange rates meant prices were still likely to remain the same, he said.

There was also evidence of a very tight supply of lamb on the UK market, which should keep prices firm in 2009, Cullen said.

This was demonstrated by a lack of supermarket promotions on lamb legs in November compared with previous years, as UK producers took advantage of the currency rates to increase exports.

Most fruit and vegetable prices have also risen this year, with the category as a whole up 14.4% against last year. The general trend for higher prices has come as growers battle with soaring fertiliser and labour costs.

With more than 85% of fruit and 50% of veg imported, prices look to remain high in 2009. Even on classic British crops such as potatoes, the UK was not self-sufficient and imported more than one million tonnes of fresh and frozen product, meaning prices would remain stable or rise next year, said Rob Burrow of the Potato Council.

Dairy was a slightly different case, said analysts. Despite the price of a four-pint of semi-skimmed milk rising 14.2% to £1.53 over the year and Cheddar going up 27.2% to £6.59/kg, a plateau may have been reached, they suggested.

Producer prices were unsustainably low 18 months ago, and as input costs increased the retail prices followed suit to reflect the extremely tight UK milk supply.

However, a collapse in global ingredients prices, increasing production across Europe and lower fuel costs meant prices - especially for Cheddar - could fall.

All eyes would be on Tesco's next milk price review, due in the spring, to see if the supermarket leader dropped its price, said DairyCo head of market information, Huw Thomas.