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Bread prices hit all-time high in EU as war disrupts food supply  

While energy prices are mostly to blame for Europe’s 10% inflation rate, citizens of some countries are paying 100% more for sugar and nearly 50% more for milk, cheese and eggs compared to a year ago.

(CN) — Prices for many food staples in the European Union have spiked in recent months, with bread reaching its highest price ever.

A report released Monday by the bloc's statistics agency suggests food prices have been affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “which has significantly disturbed global markets since Russia and Ukraine have been major exporters of grains, wheat, maize, oilseeds (particularly sunflowers) and fertilizers.“ 

But bread lags behind many other products, including poultry, whole fresh milk, butter and sugar, for its annual rate of change, according to the Eurostat report. Although inflation varies widely among its 27 member states, the price of bread averaged 18% more in August 2022 than it was one year ago. Consumers in Hungary were paying 66% more for bread, while prices in France only increased 8%. Increases of 30% or greater were also experienced in Latvia, Poland, Croatia, Slovakia, Estonia and Lithuania. 

Prices for all goods tracked by Eurostat’s harmonized index of consumer prices indicate a headline inflation rate of roughly 10% over the past year, which is led by price increases for energy including liquid fuels (78.9%), natural gas (65.4%) and electricity (35.7). Leading price increases among food products included margarine and other vegetable fats (34.9%), butter (34.7%), sugar (33.4%), whole milk (24.3%), eggs (19.9%) and cheese (18.9%).

Other food items rising above the overall inflation rate were vegetables (10.7%), meat (14.3%), rice (16.8%) and coffee (16.9%).

Grocery items such as alcoholic beverages, fruit, baby food, tea and chocolate increased at a rate lower than the headline rate, while Europeans were also generally spared dramatic increases in the prices of health care (2.5%), clothing (3%), major tools and equipment (3.8%), household appliances (6.5%) and furniture (9.8%) over the past year. 

Among the more marked increases of individual products in certain countries, Poland is paying 109.2% more for sugar than it was one year ago, Latvia is paying 41.4% more for rice, Hungary is paying 49.5% more for milk, cheese and eggs, and Slovakia is paying 53.8% more for oils and fats. 

The war in Ukraine has disrupted production and transport of goods from the country, which is the EU’s 17th largest partner for exports (1.3%) and 15th largest partner for imports (1.1%). The most imported goods from Ukraine into the EU in 2021 included iron ore and concentrates, vegetable oils, ingots of iron and steel and unmilled corn. 

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