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Opinion: Meat, dairy drive price increases

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Three simple words strung together to form the phrase ‘told you so’ pierce like fingernails scratching a blackboard. Having completed my formal education before the introduction of white boards, I well remember the blackboard.

Media outlets have speculated about food prices and along with the reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have predicted increases. The third-quarter marketbasket survey results are in and as much as I hate to admit it, they were right. Of the 16 items surveyed each quarter by volunteer shoppers across Missouri, 11 increased in price compared to the previous quarter. The increases ranged from as low as 5 cents to as high as 49 cents.

Third-quarter prices rang in at $49.32 compared to the previous quarter’s total of $47.23. Of the $2.09 difference, almost 47 percent can be attributed to meat and dairy products. Prices increased for sirloin tip roast, bacon, sliced deli ham and eggs. They decreased for ground chuck, chicken breasts, milk and shredded cheddar cheese.

Global demand, especially for pork and other protein-rich foods, is the primary driver behind the higher retail prices. U.S. livestock production remains flat due to production costs and challenges. A strong export demand for beef and pork products continues to impact domestic pricing.

Other items of note on this quarter’s survey include increased prices for grain products. The range included a 32-ounce bottle of oil that increased 5 cents while the cereal increased 30 cents.

Potato prices continue to rise. This quarter, a 5-pound bag of russet potatoes averaged $3.19 compared to $2.93 last quarter. One year ago, $2.49 was the going price. Potato growers faced a tough planting season this year; excess moisture and cold temperatures delayed planting and created a shortage, creating a price increase due to supply and demand.

When comparing Missouri prices to the national average, $53.12, a bit of good news emerges. Show Me shoppers spent $3.80 less for the same items. Twelve of the listed items cost less in Missouri, three were higher and one was the same in both markets.

Retail food prices in 2011 are predicted to increase modestly. The USDA forecast calls for a 3 percent to 4 percent increase in the consumer price index this year. Smart shoppers are honing their skills as they utilize store brands, sales, coupons and creative menus to provide nutritious meals for their families.

I just hate it when ‘told you so’ becomes reality.

—Diane Olson, Missouri Farm Bureau, Jefferson City[[In-content Ad]]

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