Supermarkets 'overcharging' for cheese

Their costs have fallen; the price for the consumer hasn't

Block of mature cheddar cheese.

Shoppers may be cheesed off to discover that they're being overcharged for their cheddar, with research showing that supermarkets are failing to pass on recent price savings.

According to a report from The Grocer magazine, the wholesale price of cheddar has fallen by almost a fifth since European food imports were banned in Russia, creating a worldwide glut.

However, despite falling costs, the supermarkets are charging even more than they did a year ago - showing that they are making extra profit at the customer's expense.

"Industry insiders say this suggests retailers have been guarding their margins on cheddar despite the price war raging in the aisles - though they expect retail prices to come down should wholesale prices continue to fall," The Grocer says.

A kilo of cheddar now costs an average of £8.99, says the report, up 1.8% on last year. However, if prices had stayed in line with wholesale costs, it would be just £7.19 - £1.80 less.

Other hard cheeses such as Double Gloucester and Red Leicester have gone up by 4.5% to £8.62 a kilo. Meanwhile, blue cheese has risen even more, with a 6.1% price increase to an average £11.87 a kilo.

The best bargains, says The Grocer, are to be found amongst own-label continental cheeses. These have fallen in price to an average £10.93 a kilo.

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Who Will Be Affected By Russia's Food Import Ban?

According to analyst Mintec, cheese production in the UK has remained stable in the UK over the last year. However, there's been a worldwide crash in the price of milk and the price paid to British farmers, with some saying it's now lower than the cost of production. Farmers don't want to see milk and cheese retail prices fall too far, as it creates false expectations amongst consumers.

"The current global situation has led to a crisis for many British dairy farmers," says NFU dairy board chairman Rob Harrison.

"Many are selling milk at well below the cost of production and while some retailers have made great strides forward to create clear and fair formulas in how they pay their dairy farmers, we are concerned that the long term impact of extremely low retail milk prices on the industry could be very serious for all concerned."

There's better news for those hunting bargains in Finland, where cheese prices have been cut dramatically thanks to 'Putin cheese': destined for Russia, it's now fallen foul of the country's ban on European food imports and is retailing in Finland for half the normal price.

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