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The latest Marketbasket Survey, conducted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation in December 2011, indicates that average retail food prices in supermarkets across the state have decreased by 1 percent during this last quarter. According to the survey, the total cost of 40 basic grocery items was $115.90. This reflects a decrease of $1.16, or 1 percent, from the same list of items reported in the previous quarter.
While the Marketbasket Survey now reports two consecutive quarters with decreasing prices to close out the year, the fourth quarter total for 2011 is still $6.69, or 6.1 percent, higher than the same reporting period in 2010, and $10.62, or 10.1 percent, higher than the third quarter of 2009.
Additionally, the average Marketbasket Survey total from all four quarters of 2011 was $116.34 – an increase of $9.39, or 8.8 percent, over the previous year’s average total of $106.95.
Of the six food groups recorded in the survey – beef, dairy, fruits and vegetables, grain, pork, and poultry – the fruits and vegetables category showed the greatest total decrease with an average price drop of 7.0 percent. The beef category made the largest average increase of 1.9 percent. Idaho potatoes had the greatest single-item decrease with an average price drop of $0.84 per 10 lbs, and the highest single-item increase was rib-eye steak, climbing an average of $0.78 per pound. Overall, 20 of the 40 items in this survey experienced decreases in average price, one was unchanged (1-lb. whole wheat bread), and 19 items increased.
While Kentucky retail food prices in 2011 mirrored national trends and increased noticeably during the first half of the year, the fourth quarter’s 1 percent decrease deviates slightly from what has been reported nationwide. Based on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent Consumer Price Index data released in mid-December (which reflects figures through November 2011), national food prices increased by 0.1 percent in the last reported month and climbed a total of 4.6 percent over the past 12 months.
Though food prices have a myriad of market factors that impact total retail pricing, many price boosts can be directly linked to the necessary role that energy and transportation have in food production – and their associated changes in cost, too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that all energy costs have gone up 12.4 percent while gasoline prices have increased by 19.7 percent over the last 12 months.
Despite the rise in retail food prices experienced nationwide, Americans continue to enjoy some of the lowest food prices in the world and spend only about 10 percent of their disposable income on food each year. U.S. food costs remain far lower than that of other countries thanks in large part to agricultural efficiencies utilized in America. Putting those efficiencies to use currently allows the average U.S. farmer to produce enough food and fiber to provide for about 154 people. In 1980 each farmer only produced enough food and fiber for 115 people, and that output drops to just 19 people when looking back to 1940.
Yet while more food is now being produced on less land, the farmer’s share of the retail food dollar in America is down. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new Food Dollar Series, a farmer earns less than 16 cents per dollar spent on food, down significantly from the 31 cents earned as recently as 1980.
Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation has conducted its regional Marketbasket survey over the past four decades as a tool to reflect local retail food pricing trends and their relationship to what farmers receive for their raw commodities. Cities reporting on the Kentucky Farm Bureau Marketbasket Survey for the fourth quarter of 2011 include: Augusta, Bardstown, Bowling Green, Brandenburg, Campbellsville, Danville, Eddyville, Elkton, Flemingsburg, Gamaliel, Glasgow, Grayson, Harrodsburg, Hopkinsville, Lexington, Louisville, Madisonville, Mayfield, Munfordville, Owensboro, Owingsville, Powderly, Richmond, Russellville, Somerset and Walton.