Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt were considered by some to have set themselves an easy target of halving inflation.

Some economists had already forecast a relative reduction. A surprise hike in inflation this week could have had a few shifting uncomfortably in their seats in Number 10 as well as Number 11, but, on the ground, such pressures are forcing scores of food firms to go under.

We see price hikes and empty shelves in supermarkets. Less visible are the businesses that have been unable to match their outgoings on energy, wages, supplies, and bureaucracy with their earnings.

This week, a shortage of staples helped push up food prices at the fastest rate in 45 years. Inflation rose to 10.4 per cent in February from 10.1% in January, but food and drink inflation is nearly double that.

Business representatives bemoan the Office for National Statistics data that show that over the year to February, on average, 72% of food and drink manufacturers said they had to absorb rising costs.

HeraldScotland: There have been shortages of staple foods salad and vegetablesThere have been shortages of staple foods salad and vegetables (Image: PA)

That compares with 56% of all companies across the UK and 53% of food retailers “suggesting that the industry has been disproportionately impacted by the rise in input costs during the pandemic and the Russian war on Ukraine, compared to the average UK business”.

It is also suggested manufacturers “absorbed a lot of pain”.

The number of insolvencies in the food manufacturing industry doubled in 2022 to 244 compared to 122 in 2019.

READ MORE: UK veg shortages drive unexpected rise in inflation

The 100% rise in food firm insolvencies significantly outpaced the 27% rise in the UK as a whole and the 15% rise in manufacturing insolvencies.

David Thomson, Food and Drink Federation Scotland chief executive, said the “acceleration in food and drink inflation to 18.2% will come as disappointing news for households”.

He said: “It reflects the continued, significant pressure the food and drink sector is under as businesses grapple with persistent cost rises.

HeraldScotland: David Thomson said more should be done to help food firmsDavid Thomson said more should be done to help food firms (Image: FDF Scotland)

“We welcome Jeremy Hunt’s pledge to halve inflation this year made in last week’s Budget but there’s certainly more governments across the UK can do to help our sector achieve this.

“It’s vital that the new First Minister supports our industry and keeps costs down for Scotland’s households. Scotland has a fantastic food and drink industry, supporting everyone’s daily lives and providing great jobs and careers across the country.

“Our success is also central to driving sustainable economic growth.”

Also this week, business editor Ian McConnell writes that Paddy Crerar, who has sold the hotel group he founded in 2006 in a newly announced deal, is one of those people who not only understands his industry inside out but also sees the bigger picture, and has in recent times made his voice heard on crucial subjects such as the remote and rural housing crisis, and Brexit.

There were further shockwaves across retail this week as the owner of a Cumbernauld shopping centre fell into administration.

It comes after the owner of East Kilbride Shopping Centre also moved into the hands of administrators in November.

Then, controversial retail billionaire Mike Ashley was reported to have completed the acquisition of Dundee’s main shopping centre in a deal thought to be worth about £30 million.