Shoppers who have witnessed so many other prices soar over the past year can seek some solace from the fact they are paying less for their rice.

In the past 12 months, the average retail price of a kilogram of rice has dropped 8.5% to £4.11 across the top five supermarkets. Prices fell most steeply at Tesco, where they dropped 16.5% to £3.44 per kg in Sainsbury’s they fell 12.6% to £4.08 while Asda prices fell 8.1% to £3.65. Morrisons and Waitrose put their prices up marginally, by 2.8% and 2.7% respectively [, 12m/e 24 October 2012].

The overall drop in price reflects a similar fall in rice commodity costs - with a tonne of milled white rice falling by 6.1% to £366.37 in the year to September 2012 [World Bank] - and suggests manufacturers and retailers passed savings on to their customers.

Some of these savings have taken the form of promotional activity, which has played a big role in driving prices down. The top five retailers have run 2,397 promotions over the past 12 months, up from 1,994 in the year to 24 October 2011.

Wholesale prices: packaging 27 October 2012

Plastics are leading our list of packaging risers, with UK prices for LDPE and HDPE up by a respective 20.3% and 5.7% year-on-year and more marginal monthly increases of 3.2% and 2.3%. Prices are being pushed up in response to lower production causing a tightening in supply.

The opposite dynamics have been at play at the other end of the market - high demand for polyester fabric last year drove up PET prices, but demand has since fallen away, prompting a correction in market prices. At £1,137/t, UK PET prices are now 19.4% below this time last year, despite a modest recovery - by 2.4% over the past month.

It’s a similar story for UK testliner, which has become 20.3% cheaper over the past 12 months. Last year, high demand for recovered paper - from which testliner is produced - from the Far East led to low stocks in Europe and higher prices, but demand and prices have returned to more normal levels in 2012.

Some 40% of promotions in the past year offered price cuts (‘save’ and rollback deals being the most popular mechanics). In the year before that, the most commonly used mechanic was a ‘buy three for a discount’ multibuy, with price cuts accounting for 35% of all deals.

Branded lines fell more sharply than own label and ended the year 12% cheaper - at £4.79 per kg - than they were the year before. But they maintained a big premium over own label, which fell 7% to £2.45 per kg year-on-year.

Ethnic speciality brands Shahi, Badsha, East End Foods and Akash offered the lowest prices by far. With large pack sizes varying between 5kg and 10kg, their products worked out as £1, £1.26, £1.40 and £1.21 per kg respectively, helping to pull down the category average.

Premium microwavable rice brands presented a mixed picture. The average price of a packet of Veetee’s Dine In rice fell 15% to £1.19, while Uncle Ben’s Express dropped 17% to £1.48. The price of Tilda steamed rice pouches, however, rose by 7% £1.31 per packet.

The drop in retail rice prices contrasts with other carbohydrate staples. The average price of dry pasta rose 4% to £3.49 per kg over the same period, cous cous by 5% to £6.45 per kg and fresh potatoes by 10% to £1.20 per kg.