UK inflation shot up unexpectedly last month as vegetable shortages pushed food prices to their highest rate in more than 45 years, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation rose to 10.4% in February from 10.1% in January.

Most economists were expecting CPI to fall to 9.9% in February.

The surprise jump in inflation comes after food and non-alcoholic drinks prices rose by 18% year-on-year last month, up from 16.7% in January and the highest since August 1977.

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Shortages of vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers in recent weeks were largely behind the rocketing food inflation.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said that “falling inflation isn’t inevitable”.

“So we need to stick to our plan to halve it this year,” he said.

“We recognise just how tough things are for families across the country, so as we work towards getting inflation under control we will help families with cost-of-living support worth £3300 on average per household this year.”

The National:

Reacting to the news, the SNP’s economy spokesperson Stewart Hosie said the rise in inflation was a “stark reminder of the lack of support given by the Chancellor in the Budget to tackle the cost of living crisis”.

“He failed to provide real support to help households pay for their energy bills. He removed the £400 energy support and failed to reduce the already sky-high price cap.

“Jeremy Hunt has pledged those on the lowest incomes further into the Tory-made cost of living crisis whilst giving tax breaks to the wealthiest”, he said.