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Food price inflation was greater than overall inflation over last half decade

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Since 2006, a series of factors?including spikes in energy prices, inflation-adjusted price increases for agricultural commodities, major weather events, expanding global food demand, and the U.S. economic recession and subsequent recovery?have caused price inflation for food to outpace many other consumer spending categories. The all-items CPI is a measure of economy-wide inflation covering all consumer purchases of goods and services. Between 2006 and 2013, the all-items CPI increased by slightly more than 15 percent. During the same time, the all-food CPI was up more than 21 percent, indicating that food has become relatively more expensive for U.S. households over this time period. Among the major expenditure categories tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only prices for medical care have risen faster than food prices. The all-food CPI increased 1.4 percent in 2013, below the average of 2.8 percent for the last 20 years. Food price inflation is expected to be between 2.5 and 3.5 percent in 2014. This chart appears in ERS?s data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated February 11, 2014.

Drought affects California agriculture, irrigation water deliveries a growing concern

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The driest year on record for California, following several prior years of drought, is likely to have an impact on the State?s agricultural production in 2014. On January 17, 2014, the Governor of California declared a drought emergency and as of March 4, over 94 percent of California?s nearly $45 billion agricultural sector was experiencing severe, extreme, or exceptional drought. The livestock sector is more directly exposed to exceptional drought (about 62 percent) than the crop sector (just over 50 percent). Given that much of California?s agricultural production takes place on irrigated land, effects of the drought depend on the cost and availability of water from irrigation in addition to local rainfall. Shortages of irrigation water sourced from snowfall are already evident, and the extent to which growers will be able to offset these reduced surface water supplies by pumping groundwater is uncertain. Find the table underlying this chart and additional analysis in California Drought 2014: Farm and Food Impacts.

Processing and marketing costs lessen volatility of retail food prices

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Droughts, floods, and other shocks to farming can lead to swings in the prices paid for farm commodities. Volatility in farm commodity prices?measured by the Producer Price Index (PPI) for Farm Products?and in intermediate foods?measured by the PPI for Processed Foodstuffs and Feedstuffs?is often greater than price volatility in grocery stores and restaurants.? Prices move in the same direction, but the magnitude of the price changes varies. For instance, in 2011 the Farm Products PPI rose by 23.6 percent, while the Processed Foodstuffs and Feedstuffs PPI increased by 8.3 percent and the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for All Food by 3.2 percent. Price fluctuations for intermediate and retail foods are muted relative to that of farm products because prices for these foods include processing, transportation, and marketing costs.? According to ERS?s Food Dollar Series, farm and agribusiness costs only represented 10.8 cents of every dollar spent on food in 2011.? This chart appears in ?Food Price Transmissions from Farm to Retail? in the May 2014 issue of ERS?s Amber Waves magazine.

Swings in field crop prices have relatively small impacts on food prices

Thursday, September 1, 2016

U.S. commodity prices are much more volatile than restaurant and grocery-store prices, suggesting that fluctuations in prices of major field crops?corn, wheat, and soybeans?have a relatively small impact on food prices. From 1992 to 2015, the average farm price of these crops, weighted by total production, has fluctuated widely year to year?falling as much as 26.2 percent in 2013 and rising as much as 38 percent in 1995 and 2007. All-food price inflation, on the other hand, averaged 2.5 percent per year over the same time period. One reason for the relative stability in food prices, as compared to field crop prices, is that food prices reflect the costs of processing, marketing, and retailing the food products in addition to the cost of the commodity inputs. ERS's 2014 Food Dollar Series reports that the farmgate price of all food commodities (crops and livestock) was 14.5 cents of every consumer dollar spent on food and beverages. This chart appears in Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials on the ERS website, updated April 12, 2016.

Inflation-adjusted supermarket prices are up for some foods, and down for others

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Due to inflation?the general fall in the purchasing power of money over time?shelf prices of most foods in the supermarket tend to rise a bit each year. However, by holding the value of the U.S. dollar constant at a particular point in time, it is possible to see how U.S. grocery store food prices have changed over time in real, inflation-adjusted terms. In real terms, bananas, tomatoes, eggs, and chicken are all cheaper today than they were in 1984. Bread, however, has grown more expensive. Real food prices are largely determined by supply-and-demand conditions. Increases in U.S. production, imports, or both have pushed down real prices of bananas and tomatoes, and production efficiencies have helped lower real prices for chicken and eggs. The greater variability of real prices of tomatoes and eggs reflects, in part, supplies that shift more dramatically from year to year as compared to bread, bananas, and chicken. Alternatively, real prices of major field crops, including wheat, have been increasing since 2002, resulting in higher real bread prices beginning around that time. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in ERS?s Food Price Outlook data product, updated July 24, 2013.

Impact of 2012 drought on beef prices lower than expected

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Meat prices were expected to rise sharply in the wake of the 2012 drought, but this has not been the case. Higher feed prices, due in part to the 2012 drought, prompted ranchers to reduce herd sizes and send more animals to slaughterhouses than usual. This influx of livestock caused cattle prices, and in turn wholesale beef and veal prices, to increase less in 2012 than in 2011, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics? Producer Price Index (PPI). In 2012, the cattle PPI and wholesale beef and veal PPI increased by 8.6 and 10 percent, respectively, below the increases of 22.1 and 15 percent in 2011. While retail prices, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), track changes in the PPI, the swings are typically smaller. The beef and veal CPI rose by 6.4 percent in 2012 versus 10.2 percent in 2011. More information on food prices can be found in ERS?s Food Price Outlook data product, updated November 5, 2013.

Retail price forecasts for 2016 vary by food category

Monday, April 11, 2016

Grocery store food prices are forecast to rise between 1.5 and 2.5 percent in 2016, exceeding the 2015 increase of 1.2 percent, with some variation across food categories. Egg prices are expected to fall between 0.5 and 1.5 percent as the egg industry recovers from the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak, which reduced the supply of eggs in the U.S. market and drove retail egg prices up by 17.8 percent in 2015. Retail beef and veal prices will also likely decline in 2016, dropping up to 1 percent below 2015 levels. Like eggs, beef, and veal prices experienced higher than average inflation in 2015, but as producers expand their herds, more cattle will be ready for market in 2016. On the other hand, prices for pork and dairy products, which experienced deflation in 2015, are expected to increase up to 1 percent, and 2 to 3 percent, respectively. As the drought continues throughout much of California, ERS forecasts prices for fresh fruits and vegetables to rise between 2.5 and 3.5 percent. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated March 25, 2016.

2016 food price inflation expected to exceed 2015

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Over the last decade, retail food price inflation in the United States has bounced around a bit, with yearly price increases ranging from 0.3 to 6.4 percent. In 2007 and 2008, grocery store prices rose 4.2 and 6.4 percent, respectively—well above the 20-year annual average increase of 2.6 percent. Inflation during these years was largely due to a rapid increase in farm-level prices for rice, grains, and oilseeds. The low inflation in 2009 (0.5 percent) and 2010 (0.3 percent) reflected the Great Recession’s downward pressure on retail food price inflation. Prices again rose above average in 2011 as grocery prices adjusted post-recession. From 2012 through 2015, food price inflation varied, but stayed below average. Despite high egg and beef prices in 2015, food price inflation, at 1.2 percent, was less than 2014’s 2.4-percent rise. Lower pork, fresh fruit, and fats/oils prices helped ease overall food price inflation in 2015. In 2016, ERS expects retail food prices to increase between 2 and 3 percent, with some variation among grocery subcategories. For instance, fresh fruit prices are expected to rise 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2016, while egg prices are expected to decrease between 0.5 and 1.5 percent. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated February 25, 2016.

Retail egg prices rose 21 percent in third quarter 2015

Monday, February 8, 2016

Egg prices are among the most volatile in the grocery store. Unlike many other retail foods, shell eggs have a limited shelf life—they cannot be frozen or canned. If demand increases or supplies fall, there is limited inventory to draw upon and retail prices may rise. While some price fluctuations are expected due to seasonal demand for eggs throughout the year, there have been some above-average price increases over the past 16 years, mainly due to disease outbreaks affecting poultry or surges in feed prices. The most recent upswing in retail egg prices was largely due to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which affected table-egg-laying flocks, primarily in the Midwest. To contain the outbreak, which ran from late 2014 to June 2015, producers destroyed about 33 million hens (roughly 11 percent of U.S. egg-laying hens). Retail egg prices rose 20.9 percent in the third quarter of 2015, and egg prices in September 2015, were 36.2 percent higher than in September 2014. As the industry recovers from the outbreak, retail egg prices have begun to adjust, falling 3.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015. This chart appears in “Retail Egg Price Volatility in 2015 Reflects Farm Conditions” in the February 2016 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Ingredient costs for an apple pie up 3.1 percent from October 2014

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

U.S. net farm income—a measure of the sector’s profitability—is forecast to be $55.9 billion in 2015, down 38 percent from 2014’s estimate of $90.4 billion. If realized, the 2015 forecast for net farm income would be the lowest since 2002 (in both real and nominal terms) and a drop of 55 percent from the recent high of $123.3 billion in 2013. Lower crop receipts (declining by $18.2 billion) and livestock receipts (declining by $25.4 billion) are the main drivers of the change, as total production expenses are projected down by 2 percent ($7.7 billion) and government payments are forecast to increase about 10 percent ($1.0 billion) in 2015. Net cash income is forecast at $93.0 billion, down about 28 percent from the 2014 estimate. Net cash income is projected to decline less than net farm income primarily because it reflects the sale of carryover stocks from 2014. This chart is found in 2015 Farm Sector Income Forecast, released November 24, 2015.

Inflation-adjusted prices for a few food categories have fallen since 1985

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Over the past 30 years, grocery store prices have risen 4.5 percent above economy-wide prices, indicating that food prices have risen faster than some other consumer goods, such as housing and transportation. Inflation-adjusted (real) prices for poultry and dairy products have been stable, while real prices for red meats, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables grew by 18, 21.5, and 40 percent between 1985 and 2014, respectively. Over the same time period, real prices for fats and oils, sugar and sweets, and nonalcoholic beverages fell. A main ingredient in many nonalcoholic beverages is corn sweeteners, which have decreased in price nearly 20 percent since 1985. Processed foods, many of which are included in the sugar and sweets category, are less affected by commodity-level price swings and are generally more closely linked to the costs of inputs such as electricity and wages. Industrial electricity costs and manufacturing wages both increased at a rate about 10 percent lower than overall inflation since 1985. This chart appears in “Growth in Inflation-Adjusted Food Prices Varies by Food Category” in ERS’s July 2015 Amber Waves magazine.

Retail pork and chicken prices down from a year ago, beef prices higher

Thursday, July 2, 2015

When shopping at the meat counter this Fourth of July, consumers may notice differences in prices per pound compared to last year. A pound of pork chops sold for $3.79 in May 2015 compared to $4.11 per pound in May 2014, a decrease of 7.8 percent. The price of boneless chicken breasts has also fallen, decreasing by 1.9 percent over the last year to $3.41 per pound. In contrast, beef prices are up this year, largely due to drought conditions throughout the Southern Plains and Southwest. Higher feed costs and decreased water supplies forced farmers to shrink their herd sizes to historically low levels in 2014, causing beef prices to rise by more than 10 percent over the last year. On average, consumers are paying $0.28 more per pound for ground beef and $1.23 more per pound for sirloin steak in May 2015 compared to a year earlier. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

California drought continues, but produce inflation expected to be near historical average

Monday, April 20, 2015

The California drought continues into 2015—as of March, 42 percent of the State is classified under the exceptional drought rating. Despite these conditions, U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable price inflation is expected to be close to its historical average in 2015. ERS predicts fresh fruit prices will increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent and fresh vegetable prices 2.0 to 3.0 percent. While California does grow a large percentage of many U.S. fresh fruits and vegetables, portions of the produce purchased in grocery stores are imported from various foreign markets. Currently, the strong U.S. dollar is making foreign produce relatively less expensive, putting downward pressure on U.S. retail produce prices. Commodities that are grown almost entirely in California and whose supplies are not largely supplemented by imports could begin to experience higher price increases in 2015. This chart appears in the Food Prices and Consumers section of the California Drought: Farm and Food Impacts page on the ERS website. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

Retail food prices up 3.5 percent at the end of 2014

Friday, March 27, 2015

Grocery store food prices in the fourth quarter of 2014 were 3.5 percent higher than a year earlier. At-home food price inflation over the last 20 years has averaged around 2.6 percent per year, indicating that 2014 ended the year with higher than average food price inflation. Beef and veal prices saw the largest increase, rising 18.2 percent from the fourth quarter of 2013, the result of historically low U.S. herd sizes and steady consumer demand. Pork prices were up 9.3 percent, as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) in the United States affected the supply of hogs available for market. However, some food categories saw price increases over the same time period that were lower than average. Retail prices for cereals and bakery products rose just 0.4 percent, and fats and oils rose 1.5 percent. The relatively low rate of inflation for these two categories was predominantly due to large supplies of soybeans and wheat from strong U.S. production. This chart is from ERS’s data product, Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated March 23, 2015. More information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated March 27, 2015.

Lower oil prices may temper 2015 food price inflation

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Oil prices began declining in the last quarter of 2014, continuing their descent to just above $45 a barrel in January 2015 from $105 in July 2014. Barrel prices have not dipped this low since the end of the Great Recession in 2009. Through their impact on transportation costs and the cost of operating farm machinery, oil prices play a role in retail food prices, and declining oil prices could ease grocery store inflation. However, the effect is likely to be modest because processing costs and retailing overhead are larger cost components of retail food prices. Prices of foods requiring little processing, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, are more likely to be affected by lower oil prices than processed foods such as cereals and bakery products. As oil prices fell in 2009, fresh produce prices decreased 4.8 percent, while prices for cereals and bakery products rose 3.2 percent. Despite lower oil prices, ERS currently predicts overall food prices to rise between 2 and 3 percent in 2015, closely in line with 2014 food price inflation. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

Despite record-high beef prices, 2014 food inflation was close to 20-year average

Friday, February 6, 2015

Retail food price inflation has been more volatile in recent years. In 2007 and 2008, grocery store (food-at-home) prices rose 4.2 and 6.4 percent, respectively, as a result of rapid increases in farm-level rice, grain, and oilseed prices. The Great Recession helped push down at-home food price inflation to just 0.5 percent in 2009 and 0.3 percent in 2010. Inflation was again higher than the 20-year average in 2011, reaching 4.8 percent. However, in 2014 retail food prices rose 2.4 percent, near the 20-year annual average of 2.6 percent. While retail food price inflation was modest in 2014, food categories in the perimeter of the grocery store—beef and veal, pork, eggs, dairy, and fresh fruit—all experienced above average inflation. In contrast, items in the center aisles experienced inflation below average or, in some instances, even saw deflation; prices for sugars and sweets and for nonalcoholic beverages fell in 2014. Information on ERS’s food price forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 23, 2015.

Seasonal dips in ground beef prices lower the cost of Memorial Day burgers

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the barbecue season for many Americans, and a grilled burger topped with cheese is a holiday staple. Using price data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ERS calculated the average national cost of a home-cooked cheeseburger. The cost was found to vary seasonally, usually decreasing in February, May, and June while reaching annual peaks in November or December. Most of the seasonal variation is due to the changes in beef prices. The April 2013 cost of $2.07 for a home-prepared cheeseburger is up 61 percent since 2000, while overall food-at-home prices have increased 41 percent in that time. Much of that difference is due to the strong beef price inflation of recent years resulting from low cattle inventories and high feed prices. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in ERS’s Food Price Outlook data product.

Even large commodity price increases result in modest food price inflation

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Farm-level commodity prices are far more volatile than food prices, as costs for marketing inputs such as packaging, processing, and transportation mitigate commodity price volatility on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus. Corn, wheat, and soybeans are the three most important field crops to the U.S. food supply. The average farm price of these crops, weighted by total production, regularly rises or falls by over 10 percent from year to year. On average, food prices have become less volatile in recent decades, as food price inflation averaged 8 percent per year in the 1970s, but only 2.8 percent per year since 1990. Commodity prices, alternatively, have grown somewhat more volatile over time. However, large changes in major commodity prices have relatively small impacts on food prices. In 2007-08, the average production-weighted price of these crops increased by 50 percent, while food prices rose 5.5 percent. Similarly, in 2010-11, the crop prices rose 31 percent and food prices increased 3.7 percent. This chart appears in the Food Price Outlook topic page on the ERS website, updated April 17, 2013.

Midwest drought's impacts seen in fourth quarter 2012 food prices

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

In the final three months of 2012, higher field corn prices resulting from the Midwest drought began to show up on supermarket shelves. From October to December, while the all-items CPI fell 0.8 percent and overall food-at-home prices increased only 0.2 percent, prices rose for most foods that rely heavily on corn-based animal feed—beef, pork, poultry, other meats, eggs, and dairy products. Milk prices rose nearly 3 percent while egg prices increased 1.7 percent. Prices for beef, poultry, and other meats all rose by about 0.5 percent. The only animal-based category defying this trend is pork, where rising inventories and falling exports have caused retail prices to drop from historically high levels in early 2012. ERS forecasts prices for all meat and animal-based products to increase steadily through the first half of 2013. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 2013.

Retail prices of beef, fats and oils, and poultry up the most in 2012

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Overall food-at-home prices rose 2.6 percent in 2012, but this masked a great deal of variation across food categories. For the second consecutive year, beef and fats and oils showed the biggest percentage increases. Beef prices increased due to record low cattle inventories, while surging soybean prices pushed up prices for fats and oils. Poultry prices also increased substantially in 2012, due to a shift in demand away from high-priced beef and pork coupled with higher costs for broiler feed resulting from the Midwest drought. Pork prices, which saw major inflation in 2011, were flat in 2012 as wholesale prices fell due to rising hog inventories and falling exports. Vegetable prices fell 5.1 percent in 2012 as the unusually warm weather led to bumper crops for lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables, in sharp contrast to the poor harvests and high vegetable prices of 2011. More information on food price changes and forecasts can be found in the Food Price Outlook data product, updated January 24, 2013.

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