Inflation rose at its highest rate for four years in May, according to official statistics.

The Consumer Price Index 12-month rates was 2.9% in May, up from 2.7% in April, with food prices contributing to the upward trend.

The price of food and non-alcoholic drinks rose slightly between April and May this year (0.17%) compared with a fall a year ago (-0.24%). The latest rise continues the upward movement from late 2016 and was driven particularly by sugar, jam, syrups, chocolate and confectionery where prices of cartons and boxes of chocolates rose between April and May this year.

Rising prices for recreational and cultural goods and services (particularly games, toys and hobbies) was the main contributor to the increase in the rate, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Retail Economics chief executive Richard Lim said: “Inflation surged to its highest rate in four years as the impact of past falls in sterling continue to feed through to households.

“This confirms that real earnings are well and truly shrinking. With underlying conditions for households set to weaken even further in the coming months, confidence will be further damaged by heightened political uncertainty and legitimate concerns over what form Brexit is likely to take.”

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) national chairman Mike Cherry called for “urgent support” for small businesses.

“Small business owners and their staff are having to personally absorb these hikes and have less and less room to invest for growth,” he said.