A NUMBER of independent supermarkets have been accused of ‘profiting’ from price hikes on essential everyday items amid uproar from their regular customers.

Pictures of green chillis with extortionate price tags have emerged on social media, while one woman reported how she was charged £9.50 for toilet roll.

In some cases, people are being charged £15.99 for green peppers and £8 for sugar. And, controversially, halal meat has risen from its normal price of £8 per kilo to £12 per kilo in some shops.

Many of the city's smaller supermarkets have come under fire for raising prices on essential household items, with Bradford4Better calling for those involved to be named and shamed.

Bradford4Better’s Inayah Sher told the Telegraph & Argus: “It’s the vulnerable people that are going to suffer.

"All businesses during this difficult time should be kind and considerate and not greedy and exploitative.

“I’ve had one lady who is resorting to using tea towels as nappies and she’s considering using normal milk. Another lady was upset as she had a choice of buying flour or potatoes. She said ‘I’m having to feed my children potatoes’.

“I said ‘Just go to the local supermarket’. They’re not thinking rationally.

“We just have to keep people calm.

“It's a time when we should be considerate and supportive."

However one businessman has said prices will continue to rise in line with panic buying if people do not change their “herd mentality”.

Saveco Cash & Carry, which has three companies in the district, said costs are rising in line with price jumps by suppliers.

Naz Hussain, head of marketing at Saveco Cash & Carry, said: “Working in the industry you get to understand a little about the supply chain. What’s happening is if you look at any business, they’ve got a margin they operate in order to exist.

"All this business has done is looked at the margin and kept that margin the same.”

In context, this means if a product was sold to the business at £1 last week but now it’s sold at £2 they cannot afford to sell it at £1 anymore, Mr Hussain explained.

Unlike a number of local Asian-operated supermarkets, larger supermarket chains have signed contracts with suppliers which mean they agree to sell products at a set price for a certain amount of time.

“We’re not ripping people off. People don’t realise what a price increase is. We’re in a supply chain. There’s a pecking order.

“We have to keep in line with our margin or we’re going to start putting people’s livelihoods at risk,” he added.

When asked about panic buying, Mr Hussain replied: “The common denominator in a public crisis is herd mentality.”

Another source in the region’s halal poultry industry, who wanted to stay anonymous, firmly said that ‘nothing had been inflated’ and that suppliers are raising their prices which has a knock-on effect throughout the supply chain.

Similarly Kanapeena Supermarket said a shortage of supply of essential items has forced them to rise prices as manufacturers struggle to keep up with demand. In a statement they said: “This we hope is only temporary and we would like our customers to know that we are working hard with suppliers and manufacturers alike to keep the supply chain going.We would request that everyone be considerate in the way they shop and not to over buy. There are vulnerable people who may have to go without due to some people stock piling goods.”

Meanwhile, a market trader fears he will have to close his store in the Oastler Centre as shoppers stay away amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Ali Patel, 41, who has run Kids Collection in the market for around 15 years and who also has Smart Choice on Westgate, has spoken of his worry in the face of the pandemic.

He said he has seen a “big drop in sales” and fears he may have to shut up shop in the market if nothing is done.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday announced an “unprecedented” package of Government-backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses. The total UK confirmed cases of coronavirus stands at 1,950. The number in Bradford remains at seven.