News

Your grocery bill is going up

Your grocery bill is going up

ON THE RISE: The U.S.D.A. says it expects food costs to increase this year. Photo: Reuters

By Ros Krasny

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. food prices are expected to rise more rapidly this year after a very tame 2013, led by gains in beef, poultry and egg prices, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday.

The food price inflation outlook assumes normal weather, the USDA said, adding that the California drought poses a risk of bigger increases in many food categories, and that high supermarket prices for beef are “here to stay.”

Various measures, including overall food, food-at-home and food-away-from-home prices, are expected to rise by 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2014. The consumer price index for all food prices rose by 1.4 percent in 2013.

The ongoing drought in California could have “large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy and egg prices” although that impact has not been seen so far, USDA said.

California is the No. 1 U.S. farm state, producing roughly half the nation’s fruits and vegetables. The Golden State faces a water crisis after its driest year on record in 2013. Large amounts of farmland are likely to go unplanted this year.

In other categories, USDA said farm egg prices have been exceedingly volatile recently, rising by 20 percent in February after falling by 28 percent in January.

Farm cattle and wholesale beef prices rose in February, by 1.1 percent and 2.4 percent respectively.

“While not unusually large, these changes indicate that the record-high supermarket beef prices across the country are here to stay for the coming months,” the agency said.

The category that includes many processed, shelf-stable foods is expected to rise by 2 to 3 percent in 2014 after being flat in 2013.

Those items, produced by companies such as Kraft Foods Group, and ConAgra Foods Inc., account for 12 percent of U.S. consumer food spending.

USDA said retailer profit margins, which have contracted since the severe 2012 drought, could expand this year, which would contribute to inflation.

Retail prices for cheese, ice cream, and other processed dairy foods also could be on the rise before long, a lagged result of contraction in the U.S. dairy herd, USDA said.

Since 1990, U.S. grocery store prices have risen by an average of 2.8 percent per year, according to USDA. Average supermarket prices fell between February and December 2013, by 0.2 percent.

(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Susan Heavey)

News

in National

Making headlines this week

AP977488553978

A look at some of this week's biggest newsmakers.

in National

Student opens fire in high school north of Seattle

People embrace in front of school busses at a church, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, where students were taken to be reunited with parents following a shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Wash.

A student opened fire at his Washington state high school on Friday, killing one person, and wounding at least four others.

in Entertainment

TLC cancels ‘Honey Boo Boo’

honeybooboo

The hit reality TV show is off the air after allegations family matriarch Mama June is dating a convicted sex offender.

in Entertainment

Christian Bale to play Steve Jobs in new biopic

bale

The "Dark Knight" star will portray the late Apple Computer co-founder.

in National

Evenflo recalls infant seats to fix sticky buckles

evenflo

More than 200,000 rear-facing car seats are being recalled.