Food Prices Slightly Up in 1st Quarter

AFBF marketbasket survey shows food prices up from the fourth quarter, although down slightly from a year ago and almost exactly the average of the proceeding four quarters in 2004. Compiled by staff

Published on: Apr 4, 2005

Retail prices for food at the supermarket rose just under 2% in the first quarter of 2005, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation marketbasket survey. According to the informal survey, the total cost of 16 basic grocery items in the 2005 first quarter was $39.53, an increase of 66 cents from the 2004 fourth quarter survey.

Although the survey showed food prices up from the fourth quarter, they are down slightly from a year ago and almost exactly the average of the proceeding four quarters in 2004. "This suggests that the somewhat volatile situation of the past year may be stabilizing," says AFBF Senior Economist Terry Francl. "Not only were agricultural commodities subject to some fairly wide price swings due to supply and demand conditions in 2004, but higher energy prices added to transportation and processing in the farm-to-retail price spread."

Despite the slight increase in average prices found by AFBF, Americans spend just 10% of their disposable income on food annually, the lowest average of any country in the world.

Of the 16 items surveyed, 12 increased and four decreased in average price compared to the 2004 fourth quarter survey.

Flour showed the largest increase, up 22 cents per 5-pound bag to $1.68, followed by bacon, which rose 14 cents per pound to $3.25. Eggs and apples rose 9 cents to $1.08 per dozen and $1.13 per pound, respectively.

Other items that increased in price:

  • Whole fryers, up 7 cents per pound, to $1.21;
  • Whole milk, up 7 cents per gallon, to $3.05;
  • Sirloin tip roast, up 6 cents per pound, to $3.76;
  • Toasted oat cereal, up 6 cents to $3.13 for a 10-oz. box;
  • Russet potatoes, up 5 cents to $1.80 per 5-pound bag;
  • Ground chuck, up 3 cents to $2.60 per pound;
  • Pork chops, up 1 cent to $3.30 per pound; and
  • Cheddar cheese, up 1 cent to $3.77 per pound.

"Meat and dairy products were just slightly higher in the first quarter, reflecting an ongoing tight supply and demand situation," says Francl. Improved exports for broilers and processed poultry parts as well as a slightly earlier than usual Easter season – which always prompts egg demand – played a role in the increased prices for whole fryers and eggs, according to Francl.

Items that decreased in price from the fourth quarter of 2004 were: a 32-oz. jar of mayonnaise, down 9 cents to $3.18; a 32-oz. bottle of corn oil, down 8 cents to $2.70; vegetable oil, down 6 cents per 32-oz. bottle to $2.46; and white bread, down 1 cent per 20-oz. loaf to $1.43.

Despite steady increases in grocery store average prices over time, the share of the average food dollar received by America's farm and ranch families has actually dropped. "This reflects a long-standing trend," says Francl. "Thirty years ago farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures. Now it is only about 22%, according to Agriculture Department statistics."

Using that across-the-board percentage, the farmer's share of this quarter's marketbasket average total would be $8.70.

AFBF, the nation's largest general farm organization, conducts its informal quarterly marketbasket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends. A total of 84 volunteer shoppers in 19 states participated in this latest survey, conducted during the last week of February and first week of March.