Waitrose managing director Mark Price believes that the rise in food prices will be halted by the autumn.

Price said that while UK food price inflation is running at between 4 and 5 per cent “in real terms” across all categories, it will fall to zero or even into negative territory later this year.

His forecast will give a lift to grocers, which are battling and absorbing rising food prices.

“Wheat, peas, meat, potatoes and dairy went up in the summer of last year. There is no reason why it should keep going up and it will equalise over the course of the year and get better from the autumn,” said Price.

He said that because price inflation is “working its way through” the system and rises in commodities such as wheat have happened already, that points to falling food prices – unless there is a repeat of last year’s summer floods in the UK, poor global harvests and isolated outbreaks of livestock diseases.

However, Price conceded that because of relatively high prices, total UK food price inflation will be about 3 per cent this year.

On the overall economy, Price said he was not witnessing any evidence of a severe downturn in consumer spending.

“I think talking about a recession is hysterical. At Waitrose, I am not seeing any discernible drop in people wanting to eat good food,” he said.

Last week, Waitrose posted a 3.7 per cent increase in sales and a 0.8 per cent like-for-like rise. Waitrose finance director Richard Mayfield said the week’s results were the first meaningful comparison following the Easter holiday period, which fell early this year.

Separately, Price expressed concern that the infrastructure for food production would not satisfy a growing world population, such as soaring demand for meat in China.

Speaking at the Real Food Festival, he said: “Something has got to change. We cannot feed the planet in the way we are farming it – it is a much bigger issue than climate change.”