THE head of the Food and Drink Federation has warned consumers will be in for a “bit of a shock” if food prices rise in line with projections over the latter half of this year.

Speaking to Sky News, Ian Wright warned increasing commodity prices, labour shortages and growing freight costs could rapidly drive up costs.

“I think food inflation will be in mid-single digits by the end of the summer or early autumn, and I think it could go higher in some parts by the end of the year,” he said.

“I think it’s something to which the Government needs to pay close attention to pretty fast.”

READ MORE: Scottish customers face empty shelves and lack of fresh produce due to Brexit

He added: “You can see that the conditions are beginning to come into into focus for quite serious price rises in the second half of the year and even more in the first half of next year.

“After 30 years of food price deflation, that will be a bit of a shock to shoppers and to policymakers.”

The warning comes after The National reported on food shortages in Scottish supermarkets amid a post-Brexit shortage of HGV drivers. Before the pandemic about 10% of the 600,000 HGV lorry drivers in the UK were from the EU – now most have left the country.

The Road Hauliers Association believes there is a shortage of about 60,000 drivers. In an effort to tackle the issue, the UK Government relaxed working regulations so they could drive for one extra hour per day during the shortage.

The new regulations which came in after the UK left the EU also means it takes longer to get fruit and vegetables to shops after being harvested in Europe.

Supermarkets urged customers not to panic buy this morning in response to reports of emptying shelves, saying they are continuing to receive regular deliveries.

The UK’s biggest supermarkets described any shortages as “patchy” across stores but said there was no need for customers to change their shopping habits.

They said any gaps on the shelves were temporary as they awaited deliveries, and were occurring in pockets rather than across supply chains.

The “pingdemic”, the shortage of HGV drivers and the hot weather were all contributing to delivery glitches, grocers said, while stressing to consumers that panic buying would create a problem that did not exist.