Grocery prices to increase by ‘13

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Get ready. They’re coming — higher grocery prices.

Thanks to a drought that is gripping more than half the United States, grocery prices are expected to increase 3 percent to 4 percent by next year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Among the grocery items affected will be milk, eggs, beef, poultry and pork prices because the drought has pushed up prices for feeds, which translates into higher prices for steaks, hamburger, pork chops and chicken.

Still, there’s good news for fruit and veggie lovers, as well as those who eat processed foods, as those types of products won’t be affected as much.

Beef prices are expected to jump between 4 percent and 5 percent, the USDA predicts. Beef is going for $1.84 per pound, currently.

Dairy products are forecasted to rise 3.5 percent to 4 percent; poultry and egg prices could rise as much as 4 percent; and pork prices could increase up to 3.5 percent.

“In 2013 as a result of this drought, we are looking at above-normal food price inflation. Consumers are certainly going to feel it,” USDA economist Richard Volpe said.

In a normal year, grocery price inflation is about 2.8 percent, which means a 3 percent increase is higher than usual.

The agency tracks actual spending and breaks it into four categories: liberal, moderate, low-cost and thrifty. For a family of four with two children under 5, the spending per month equates to $524 for the “thrifty” spender and $1,014 for the “liberal” spender.

USDA economists were aware of the drought a month ago when they did their last projections but didn’t know how bad it would get, Volpe said.

“This drought was a surprise for everybody,” Volpe said. “The USDA was forecasting a record year for the corn crop until this drought materialized. Now we’re not going to get that.”

The drought now covers around 60 percent of the continental United States, the largest area since the epic droughts of the 1930s and 1950s.

Locally, Covington County is listed as abnormally dry, which is the lowest grade of drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor statistics.

The county has received 3.96 inches of rain in July and received 6.160 inches in June, according to the Choctawhatchee, Pea and Yellow River Watershed Management Authority. Those totals don’t include rain that fell late yesterday afternoon when a thunderstorm system moved through the county.

County extension agent Chuck Simon said that the rain has helped with local crops.

“It will definitely help with cutting hay, corn, cotton – really all the crops,” he said. “Oh, and the pecans.”

Earlier this month, Gov. Robert Bentley declared a drought emergency for 33 counties, which included Covington.