Grocery prices rose only slightly during the first quarter of 2012, according Indiana Farm Bureau’s survey, but that increase was enough to set a new record high for food prices on the survey.
Indiana Farm Bureau’s latest “market basket” survey, an informal compilation of grocery prices, shows that the 16 food items on the survey cost an average of $51.15, up $1.55 from the fourth-quarter 2011 survey. The previous record was $50.70, set in the third quarter of 2008. Of the 16 items surveyed, six decreased in price and 10 increased.
The IFB survey is part of a nationwide survey compiled by the American Farm Bureau Federation from data supplied by state Farm Bureaus. AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, has been conducting the informal quarterly market basket survey of retail food price trends since 1989.
“It’s not intended to be a scientific survey,” noted Isabella Chism, IFB 2nd vice president. “It’s conducted by volunteer shoppers, each of whom goes to her local grocery store and collects price information. So it’s really a snapshot of what prices the shoppers saw over a period of a few days in March.” A total of 64 shoppers in 24 states participated in the latest survey. Twenty-three volunteers participated in IFB’s survey.
The national survey reported an even larger increase, with prices rising by $3.24 to $52.47, or about 7 percent, compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. Most of the increase on both the Indiana and national surveys was due to higher prices for meats and cheese.
“Retail prices for meats and cheese were higher in the first quarter of the year due to generally strong demand and tight supplies, a situation that carried over from 2011,” said John Anderson, an AFBF senior economist. “According to Agriculture Department data, retail meat prices probably peaked sometime in the first quarter, and wholesale prices have declined noticeably in recent weeks. This suggests that retail meat prices may decline as 2012 progresses.”
In the Indiana survey, sliced deli ham increased by 66 cents to $5.68 per pound, while shredded cheese rose by 62 cents to $4.70/pound. Other increases in the meat/dairy sector include ground chuck; which rose by 24 cents to $3.18/pound; boneless chicken breasts, up 23 cents to $3.13; and bacon, which rose by 6 cents to $4.07/ pound.
Other items that increased in price were potatoes, up by 28 cents per 5 pounds to $2.93; bagged salad mix, up 24 cents per pound to $2.42; 5 pounds of flour, up 17 cents to $2.68; a 20-ounce loaf of white bread, up 11 cents to $1.60; and 10-ounce box of cereal, up 2 cents to $3.10.
The largest decreases were for vegetable oil, which dropped by 72 cents to $3.33 for a 32-ounce bottle, and eggs, which dropped by 19 cents per dozen to $1.71.
Also showing decreases were a half-gallon of orange juice, down 8 cents to $3.15; sirloin tip roast, down 5 cents/pound to $4.36; a gallon of whole milk, down 3 cents to $3.24; and apples, down 1 cent to $1.87 per pound.
Farm Bureau’s market basket survey isn’t intended to be a definitive survey. However, the year-to-year direction of the survey tracks with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index (www.bls.gov/cpi/) report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped until it now stands at about 14 percent, according to the USDA’s “Food Dollar” series. The revised series can be found online at www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FoodDollar/app/.
According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world.