Grocery shopping these days is turning out to be a really dreadful task for many local consumers all because of one very evident thing â€“ a rise in food prices.
While shopping Tuesday afternoon in Walmart, Clay County resident Souzen Steelhammer said she, like so many others, is having to reconsider the way meals are cooked at home and is having to bypass certain foods that just donâ€™t meet the budget.
â€śItâ€™s really hard particularly for familiesâ€ť Steelhammer said. â€śCooking healthy is getting expensive, so itâ€™s hard to feed the family. As for my shopping habits I tend not to buy the expensive cuts of meat anymore and just try to cook food that stretches. More meatless meals, less expensive snacks and drinking water from the tap.â€ť
But whatâ€™s driving the rise in food costs?
Well, according to the United States Department of Agriculture â€“ Economic Research Service, the drought in the Midwest is the biggest factor. About 54 percent of the nation is experiencing at least a moderate drought, and that percentage is the largest for a drought in United States history, says the USDA. The drought affects corn, soybeans and other field crops, which drives up the cost of retail food.
Local consumer Annie B. Collins said she, too, has noticed the price increase but is doing her best to save money while meeting her essential food needs.
â€śPrices have gone up, but I just thank God Iâ€™m able to pay for it,â€ť Collins said. â€śI can cope with these prices.â€ť
The ERS reported last Thursday that the overall increase for all foods from 2012 to 2013 is four percent. The ERS also reports that inflation should remain strong for most animal-based foods due to higher prices of feed.
One local customer picking up groceries Tuesday cited fuel cost increases as another contributor to why food prices are rising.
â€śWith oil and gasoline prices going up itâ€™s inevitable that food prices go up,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s costing the manufacturers more to make it. Do I like it? No. Do I have any other alternative? No. We have to eat â€“ just eat less.â€ť
According to the ERS, beef prices were down 0.2 percent in January and are 3.2 percent above last January, with steak prices up 2.9 percent and ground beef prices up 3.9 percent. Pork prices increased 0.6 percent in January and are 2.6 percent below last Januaryâ€™s level. Poultry prices increased 0.6 percent in January. Poultry prices are 5.6 percent above prices this time last year, with chicken prices up 5.8 percent and other poultry prices (including turkey) up 4.1 percent.
Fresh fruit prices decreased 1.2 percent in January 2013, and the fresh fruit index is up 4.6 percent from last year at this time, with apple prices up 11.5 percent, banana prices down 0.8 percent, citrus fruit prices up 2.7 percent, and other fresh fruit prices up 4.8 percent. Cereal and bakery product prices increased 0.4 percent from December 2012 to January 2013 and are up 0.9 percent from last year at this time, with bread prices up 3.2 percent and breakfast cereal prices down 1.5 percent over the past year.
Depending upon the weather, inflation-related pressure on field crops should ease a bit, but customers will still see high-prices corn, soybeans and wheat at the grocery stores.