A.F.B.F. survey shows food prices up in first quarter

by Ron Sterk
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WASHINGTON — First quarter retail food prices increased 4% from the previous quarter and 1.5% from the first quarter of 2006 based on a market basket survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation (A.F.B.F.).

The survey showed the total cost of 16 basic grocery items was $41.34, up $1.65, or 4%, from the fourth quarter of 2006, the A.F.B.F. said. Of the 16 items surveyed, the average price of 12 increased and four decreased from the previous quarter.

Large eggs at $1.51 a dozen, up 33c from the previous quarter, showed the largest increase, the A.F.B.F. said. A 5-lb bag of flour increased by 30c, to $1.90; bacon increased by 24c, to $3.44 per lb; and pork chops rose 22c, to $3.41 a lb. Other items that increased in price were regular whole milk and Russet potatoes both up 15c, to $3.12 a gallon and $2.46 for a 5-lb bag; corn oil up 14c, to $2.77 for a 32-oz bottle; mayonnaise up 12c, to $3.35 for a 32-oz jar; ground chuck up 11c, to $2.65 per lb; sirloin tip roast up 10c, to $3.72 a lb; vegetable oil up 9c, to $2.57 for a 32-oz bottle; and toasted oat cereal up 3c, to $2.85 for a 10-oz box.

Cheddar cheese at $3.69 per lb, down 10c, showed the largest average retail price decrease for the quarter, the A.F.B.F. said. Other items that decreased in price were bread down 9c, to $1.49 for a 20-oz loaf; whole fryers down 8c, to $1.11 per lb; and red delicious apples down 6c, to $1.30 per lb.

"For the past several years, eggs have typically increased modestly in retail price from the fourth quarter of one year to the first quarter of the next and this year is no different," said Terry Francl, A.F.B.F. senior economist. "Over the past six months or so, increased demand for grains, including soybeans, has resulted in higher purchase prices for processors. This in turn has led to higher retail prices for flour, corn oil, vegetable oil and mayonnaise.

"Although red meat products were up somewhat from the last quarter of 2006, they are at or below year-ago retail prices."

Farmers’ share of the $41.34 market basket was $9.09 based on U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate that producers receive 22% of the average food dollar, the A.F.B.F. said. The share received by farmers and ranchers has dropped from about 33% in the mid-1970s despite gradual increases in retail grocery prices, Mr. Francl said.

The A.F.B.F., the nation’s largest general farm organization, conducts its quarterly market basket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends. Some 62 volunteer shoppers in 28 states participated in the latest survey conducted in February, the A.F.B.F. said.

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