BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- Food prices in the European Union rose by more than 7 percent over the past year, almost double the rate of inflation, the EU said Monday.
Some of the EU's poorest members, in eastern Europe, have been hardest hit. Several experienced percentage increases in food prices that were in double digits. In Bulgaria, the cost of food increased 25.4 percent in the 12 months ending in April. Latvia saw a rise of 21.7 percent and Estonia of 18.3 percent over the same period.
European Union spokesman Michael Mann said the price increases were due in part to poor harvests and growing demand from developing nations. He said the use of farm land to grow crops for biofuels had only a ''marginal'' impact.
Figures from the European Union's statistics office said food prices had risen on average by 7.1 percent across the EU from April to April. The overall inflation rate was 3.6 percent in the 27-nation bloc, Eurostat said.
Portugal had the lowest rate of food price increases with 3.2 percent, followed by the Netherlands with 5.4 percent and France with 5.5 percent.
Eurostat said the prices of dairy products rose the most, 14.9 percent across the EU. Prices of cooking oils and fats rose by 13.2 percent, and bread and cereals by 10.7 percent.