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Food Prices See Steepest Increase Since 1974

3/17/2011 12:00:00 AM

Tags: food costs, vegetable costs, Richard Blackden, oil prices, biofuel, weather patterns, barbecue, Tabith Alterman, groceries

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailHere’s another great reason to plant food crops in your garden this spring: Food costs jumped 3.9 percent last month over the same month last year, the steepest increase since 1974, Richard Blackden reports in the Telegraph. The steep rise was largely because of higher vegetable costs, which were up nearly 50 percent, according to the Dayton Business Journal. Inclement weather in the past year has damaged crops in Australia, Russia and South America, and demand for corn for ethanol use has contributed to the price increase, USA Today reports today.

Economists warn that the falling U.S. dollar, slower growth in crop yields, high oil prices and use of food crops to make biofuels could keep food prices high this year and possibly much longer, P.J. Huffstutter reports in the Los Angeles Times. Demand for protein is also increasing in China, India and other developing nations, which drives up prices. Urban Chinese increased their chicken consumption by 219 percent per capita from 1983 to 2006.

Violent weather patterns, including floods in Australia and a drought in China, are also causing food prices to spike. 'We're not sure if these extremes in weather are the new normal,' Clive James, founder of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, told the Los Angeles Times. 'But the patterns we've seen in the past few years show that this may become more the rule than the exception.'

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has projected that food prices will rise 3 percent to 4 percent this year, Huffstutter reports. Livestock feed prices have doubled in the last year, and Smithfield Foods recently warned that it will raise prices on bacon, chops and ribs this summer—just in time for barbecue season.

Concerned? Check out Mother Earth News editor Tabitha Alterman’s excellent recap of readers’ responses to the question “How Do You Save Money on Groceries?” “Most folks we talked with know that cooking and growing your own food is the best place to start, and they round out the cost savings by buying in bulk, preserving food and planning meals conscientiously,” Tabitha reports.

How do you plan to cut grocery costs in the face of soaring prices? Let us know what you’re thinking.

grocery basket 

Expect to pay more for groceries throughout the coming year. iStock photo

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