The UK may still be one of the cheapest countries in the world for bread. But the average price of a loaf in Britain isn’t quite the bargain it was six months earlier, according to the latest figures from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) supplied exclusively to British Baker.

Prices in the study are worked out for each city by taking the weight and cost of a typical loaf of bread and calculating price per kg.

In a league table of bread prices in 128 countries across the globe, gathered by mystery shoppers in March 2007, London, with an average price tag of £1.19 per kg of bread, is in 72nd place compared with its placing of 81 in the EIU’s September 2006 list. Then, on average, a 1kg loaf would have been priced at £1.09 in the capital.

Manchester, the only other UK place surveyed, ranked 88 in March this year with a 1kg loaf fetching an average of £1.02. Last September, a loaf weighing the same would have cost customers there 88p on average - giving the city a ranking of 103.

The figures reveal wide variations in UK prices between supermarkets, such as Asda, where the price of 1kg of bread costs as little as 73p in London and 66p in Manchester, to top-end stores, such as Harrods, where prices are £1.69 in London and £1.25 in Manchester. In some European cities, by contrast, the statistics show the gap between bread prices at bargain basement stores and luxury retai-lers is much smaller.

In Warsaw, for example, it is only 4p. In a Far Eastern city like Kuala Lumpur it is even smaller, with a difference of merely 1p. And in San Francisco, there is no difference at all, with a 1kg loaf of bread retailing at £1.55 everywhere, according to the evidence supplied by the mystery shoppers.

Food and drink analyst and EIU survey editor Jon Copestake said he thought the UK’s movement up the rankings table was likely to be a reflection of sterling’s position against other world currencies. "You also have to bear in mind that when you’re comparing bread prices in the UK with those in other cities like Vienna (which topped the EIU’s world league of bread prices), you’re not neces-sarily comparing like with like," he said.

Copestake said supermarket-bought bread in the UK was of a different quality to commonly eaten bread in other nations, which explained the disparities in prices between Britain and those markets.

Economies of scale - where typically in the UK 800g loaves are picked up, as against other European states where 400g loaves are the norm - were also a factor, he added. But he agreed that the trend for healthier eating could lead to more UK consumers opting for more expensive, locally-sourced bread, resulting in Britain occupying a higher position in future price rankings. n