Is Unilever using Brexit as a smokescreen for greed?

"It doesn't make a heap of sense to put prices up for products that are made in the UK," says consumer journalist Sinead Ryan...

Unilever may have quickly made peace with Tesco UK and Ireland last night – with suggestions that Tesco boss and former Unilever lifer "Drastic" Dave Lewis made short work of them in negotiations –but, as SuperValu and other Irish retailers continue to resist the global consumer goods manufacturer's calls for a double-digit price rise, who exactly is in the right?

The rationale given by the Anglo-Dutch company, which gives the world everything from Persil to Hellmann's, for potentially increasing the prices on its products by as much as 19% is very much Brexit-related.

As we know, the uncertainty around the UK's June decision to leave the EU has rocked the sterling. The Bank of England announced on Thursday that the pound had dropped to its lowest value in 168 years, and Unilever is arguing that the badly injured sterling is affecting its profit margin. Indeed, it has just reported that third-quarter turnover was flat at €13.4 billion.

The rising cost of commodities in dollars means the UK-headquartered firm is having to pay more for its imported ingredients. It now wants to pass that cost on to shoppers over here.

The stance taken first by Tesco and now retail group Musgrave and Dunnes Stores shows that they clearly see this as an excuse to force prices up. Consumer journalist Sinead Ryan is of a similar mind:

"The Brexit vote has resulted in sterling dropping by about 16% against the euro. Now, it doesn't make a heap of sense to put prices up for products that are made in the UK, and a lot of these products are."

A cynical observer would also note that the sudden move to hike prices ostensibly because of the expense of commodities is also in stark contrast to the way Unilever failed to lower its prices when there was an abundance of cheap ingredients at its disposal for years.

With Unilever holding firm for now and freezing deliveries, the effects of the standoff could start to be seen on the shelves of Irish supermarkets... but not quite yet.

"Dunnes have come out and said their supply chain is fine for the next number of weeks at any rate," Ryan said.

"SuperValu are okay for the next couple of weeks – because of course buyers get this stuff in well in advance.

"Now if it drags on and everybody stays firm on their position, well then it's very possible that they will start disappearing off the shelves."