Rapid recent price increases. Food costs are going up. Probably not a surprise if you are the regular shopper in your household. Over the years, I’ve roughly judged the cost of groceries by the number of bags I can fill when I spend $100. Okay, this isn’t scientific, but it gives me a sense of price changes. I’ve been shopping for so long that I can remember when $10 could easily fill two brown paper grocery bags. (Okay, that’s a long time ago…and now, of course, I use reusable bags.)
So the rise in recent food prices? According to a recent article in 24/7WallSt.com, the cost of food rose by .4% in each of the last two months: the largest monthly gains in food prices since September 2011. Why? From the article:
Food prices are often volatile and are affected by a number of factors. While certain factors reflect human decision — such as the changing tastes of consumers and farmers’ planting choices — others are forces over which farmers have very little control. Issues such as weather conditions and diseases can cause severe supply shortages that cause the price of products to rise.
Oranges and grapefruits are in the top ten foods experiencing price increases. Citrus diseases are the prime cause. Peanut butter has gone up enough to be included in that list of ten. At the very top of the list? Bacon. Over a four year period, the cost of bacon has gone up 55%–in just the past year, it went up 13%. Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus is very likely a factor in this price increase. But in the case of beef, which was second on the price increase list, drought in the west is probably the primary cause.
I buy pretty much the same things when I go to the grocery store. Depending on where we’re at in the gardening season, there’s variation in the amount of fresh vegetables and fruits I purchase vs. grow myself, but other foods remain pretty constant: cereal, dairy, fish or meat, canned goods, and so forth.
Here’s what I’ve always wondered…can’t we come up with a better system for paying farmers a fair price that covers the true cost of raising fruits, vegetables, milk and meat without making the cost of food prohibitive for those in low and medium income families? Does the U.S. Farm Bill subsidize the farming community at the wrong points–rewarding commodity farmers at far greater rates than those who actually grow the food we eat?
I’m interested in your ideas about how we could reorganize the agricultural pricing structure…and, also, more simply, in what you’ve observed price-wise at the grocery store in recent months.