Consumers can expect a fresh wave of food price increases, analysts have warned.

In trading on Friday, the new benchmark price of wheat for delivery in March, which will come into operation today, rose 26 cents to $9.795 (£4.86) a bushel, more than 4% higher than the expiring December contract of $9.39 (£4.66), the Financial Times reported.

Benchmark prices for corn were 4% higher than before, while benchmark prices for soyabean and rice for delivery in January, hit 34 and 11-year highs respectively.

“We've already seen food prices increase this year at their fastest pace since the early 1980s, but the full brunt of those increases will begin in earnest in 2008,” Bill Lapp, an analyst at US consultancy Advanced Economic Solutions, told the paper.

“High cereal prices are here to stay,” added Jean Bourlot, head of agriculture commodities at Morgan Stanley.