Rising food costs frustrate grocery shoppers

Gasoline, freezes are to blame for sharp increases

Unloading her groceries in the parking lot of Food Lion on Windsor Spring Road, Vivian Price said she is growing more frustrated at rising prices.

 

"I think it's awful," she said of having to pay increasingly more for staple items. "I don't know how anybody makes it anymore."

Prices paid by U.S. consumers for food, energy and other goods and services jumped in February for the third consecutive month.

The government said food costs increased 0.6 percent, the most since September 2008. Food costs rose for almost all major grocery groups, including meat and eggs, dairy, and fruits and vegetables. The cost of cereals and baked goods was flat, the only group that didn't increase.

Doug King has been in the food industry for 60 years and said he never has seen food prices skyrocket like this.

"It's quite a big difference," he said. "This is different than anything in the past."

King, the owner of Doug's Meat Shop on Deans Bridge Road, said meat prices are so high he thinks they'll have to drop soon.

"It's going to have to drop," he said. "They're being driven up so much."

Simon Medcalfe, who teaches economics at Augusta State University, said several factors are contributing to the price increases.

"Gas prices are certainly a large part of it, especially concerns about the situation in the Middle East," he said.

Gas prices jumped 4.7 percent in February, above January's increase but below December's rise. Oil and gas prices have risen sharply since the beginning of the year because of political turmoil in the Middle East.

Medcalfe also said early freezes have created harvesting problems for growers, resulting in decreased quantity and quality of produce.

Price has noticed and said she believes she's getting lower-quality food.

"Somebody needs to do something," she said. "It's bad for everybody."

Because the agricultural issues are unexpected, Medcalfe said consumers might see prices drop in the next few seasons.

"Some of these increases may be temporary, but prices are pretty reflective of the fundamental costs to the retailer," he said.

North Augusta Walmart shopper Pam Waller has noticed the rising prices, but doesn't feel like there is much she can do about it.

"I find myself searching more for bargains and looking more in the sale pages," she said.

Associated Press reports were used in this story.

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Price of food, by the numbers

The U.S. Department of Labor said food costs increased 0.6 percent in February, the most since September 2008. Food costs rose for almost all major grocery store groups, including meat and eggs, dairy, and fruits and vegetables:

PRODUCTFEB. 2011JAN. 2011DEC. 2010
Loaf of bread$1.398$1.401$1.386
Pound of ground chuck$3.058$2.991$2.932
Pound of chicken$1.266$1.241$1.280
Dozen eggs$1.708$1.806$1.793
Gallon of milk$3.357$3.301$3.318
Pound of bananas$0.625$0.596$0.587
Pound of coffee$4.218$4.417$4.146

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

Prices changing

GALLON OF MILK

$3.357

+$0.039 since Dec.

LOAF OF BREAD

$1.398

+$0.012 since Dec.

A DOZEN EGGS

$1.708

-$0.085 since Dec.

POUND OF GROUND CHUCK

$3.058

+$0.126 since Dec.

POUND OF BANANAS

$0.625

+$0.038 since Dec.