Saturday, October 4, 2008

Retail Food Prices Rise in Third Quarter

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 2, 2008 – Retail food prices at the supermarket increased in the third quarter of 2008, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey. The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 basic grocery items in the third quarter of 2008 was $48.68, up about 4 percent or $2.01 from the second quarter of 2008.

Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 increased and five decreased in average price compared to the 2008 second-quarter survey. Compared to one year ago, the overall cost for the marketbasket items increased approximately 10.5 percent.

Potatoes, cheddar cheese and apples showed the largest retail price increases. A five-pound bag of potatoes was up 83 cents to $3.38; cheddar cheese was up 31 cents to $4.91 per pound; and apples rose 26 cents to $1.80 per pound.

Other items that increased in price were: pork chops, up 22 cents to $3.62 per pound; vegetable oil, up 18 cents to $3.19 for a 32-oz. bottle; corn oil, up 15 cents to $3.63 for a 32-oz. bottle; sirloin tip roast, up 14 cents to $3.98 per pound; ground chuck, up 10 cents to $2.95 per pound; mayonnaise, up 8 cents to $3.27 for a 32-oz. jar; flour, up 5 cents to $2.62 for a 5-pound bag; and whole milk, up 4 cents to $3.92 per gallon.

We continue to see increases in several staple food items due primarily to the long-term effects of high energy prices in the food sector. Sustained high costs for processing, hauling and refrigerating food products are reverberating at the retail level,” said Jim Sartwelle, an AFBF economist.

Regarding the top gainer in this quarter’s survey Sartwelle explained, “Acreage planted to potatoes was down nearly 8 percent this year. The combination of a smaller crop and some production losses in the field has led to higher-priced spuds in the produce aisle.”

Apples prices tracked by Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers increased for the third consecutive quarter.

“The number of U.S. apple trees continues a long, slow decline which translates into less fruit for everything from processing to to Mom’s apple pie,” said Sartwelle. “As a result, retail apple prices have crept higher.”

Large eggs decreased for the second consecutive quarter, down 11 cents to $1.71 per dozen. White bread also dropped 11 cents in the third quarter, to $1.79 for a 20-oz. loaf. Whole chicken fryers and bacon both dropped 6 cents per pound, to $1.43 and $3.51, respectively, while a 9-oz. box of toasted oat cereal decreased 1 cent, to $2.97.

The combination of increased summertime chicken production and lighter demand for chicken breasts resulted in a slight retail price decrease for whole fryers, according to AFBF.

As retail grocery prices have increased gradually, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped over time.

“In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. That figure has decreased steadily over time and is now just 19 percent, according to Agriculture Department statistics,” Sartwelle said.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $48.68 marketbasket total would be $9.25.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, conducts its informal quarterly marketbasket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends. According to USDA statistics, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable income on food annually, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 74 volunteer shoppers in 32 states participated in the latest survey, conducted during August.

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