LOUISVILLE – For the fifth quarter in a row, food prices in the Commonwealth have fallen, according to the latest Kentucky Farm Bureau Marketbasket Survey, albeit a very slight decline for the first three months of the year.
The survey, taken quarterly and denotes the average total cost of 40 basic grocery items showed a drop of .43 percent and continues the pattern seen throughout 2015.
Overall the cost of the items totaled an average of $118.92 as compared to the $119.43 recorded during the last quarter of 2015.
The largest drop, category wise, was attributed to poultry which fell by 14 percent followed by beef which experienced a 3.4 percent drop and a two percent drop in surveyed dairy products.
The largest individual category increases came by way of grains which rose in price by 8.3 percent followed by fruits and vegetables with a 4.2 percent jump and pork which rose by 2.3 percent.
Kentucky food prices are, for the most part, in line with the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) information which indicated a 0.2 percent decline in overall national food prices during March. The CPI also denoted a 0.5 percent drop in the food at home index, the largest decline since April 2009.
According to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Five of the six major grocery store food group indexes fell, with the fruits and vegetables index declining 1.9 percent, the largest decrease since January 2005.”
The national index for dairy and related products declined by 0.5 percent with the index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs falling by 0.3 percent.
Kentucky food price declines included a $.64 per dozen drop in large and extra-large egg prices.
Jay Coleman, KFB Poultry Committee Chair said this decline is likely due to a correction in the market after production levels dropped last year during an Avian Influenza outbreak that created large losses in some poultry producing states.
“We saw egg prices climb last year because of that outbreak but with a return to more normal production levels now, we are seeing those prices come back down,” he said.
Marketbasket Survey specifics: Ribeye steak dropped $.41 cents per pound, sirloin fell by $.52 per pound, pork chops decreased by $.18 per pound, two percent milk prices fell by $.29 per gallon and lettuce dropped by $.22 a head.
T-bone steak prices increased by $.37 per pound, pork sausage increased by $.27 per two pound package, wheat bread prices rose by $.20 per loaf and pepper prices rose by $.25.
Agricultural economics in food prices: Whether or not U.S. grocery prices fluctuate from one quarterly survey to the next, Kentuckians and all Americans continue to enjoy some of the lowest food prices in the world. Shoppers in the U.S. spend only about 10 percent of their disposable income on food each year. Those costs remain far lower than any other country in the world thanks to many of the agricultural efficiencies utilized in America. Today the average U.S. farmer produces enough food and fiber to provide for about 154 people – a significant jump from an average of 19 people per farmer back in 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 USDA’s Food Dollar Series, a farmer earns less than 16 cents per dollar spent on food, down significantly from the 31 cents earned in 1980.