Responding to a recent report suggesting food prices have risen by over 10% in the past year, debt management company Gregory Pennington have advised consumers to take active care of their finances, and to seek debt help if outgoings become unmanageable.
The report by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed that the sharp rises in wholesale costs in the past year have been passed on to consumers, with fresh produce price rises surging as high as 11.9% between August 2007 and 2008.
Many analysts have suggested that this was the reason behind the Bank of England’s decision to hold interest rates at 5 per cent for the fifth consecutive month – where previously a drop was expected to help stabilise the economy – in a bid to avoid a recession.
A Gregory Pennington spokesperson commented that this decision spells further uncertainty for the economy. “The Bank of England are in a tricky situation: raising interest rates would help to bring down inflation, but it could be extremely damaging to the housing market. Likewise, lowering interest rates would help the housing market, but could mean inflation rises further.
“The Bank of England have been hoping that inflation will come down naturally – possibly due to a fall in oil prices – in which case they could safely lower interest rates. But as things stand, any change in interest rates could damage the economy in one way or another, so the safe option is to leave rates as they are.”
The spokesperson went on to explain that problems with rising inflation, particularly food prices, look set to continue – even once the Bank of England change their base rate. “Since interest rates are expected to fall, inflation may well continue for some time, since there will be less incentive to save,” she said. “The thinking behind it is that lower interest rates will kick-start the housing and credit markets, which some economists believe is the underlying cause of instability in the economy. Once that is rectified, inflation may begin to slow.
“But food prices are heavily affected by external factors, such as prices in the country of origin – so even if overall inflation begins to slow, we may see food prices continue to rise for some time yet.”
The Gregory Pennington spokesperson advised consumers to continue taking preventative measures to minimise the impact of rising food prices. “Compromise is key. People should consider what their essential costs are, and budget accordingly. Then consider saving as much as possible of what is left over.
“There is an ongoing danger that as prices get higher, more and more people will see their disposable income diminished, and in some cases, outgoings may begin to exceed their income. If it gets to that point, it’s time to seek debt help from a professional debt adviser.
“There are a number of debt solutions available that could help to reduce monthly payments for people in need of help with debt. A debt management plan or debt consolidation loan, for example, can allow monthly payments to be rescheduled over a longer period of time than the original debts, making each payment smaller,” he said. “But be aware that this could result in paying more interest in the long run.”
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