Arizona retail food prices at the supermarket are down slightly in the third quarter of 2011, according to the latest Arizona Farm Bureau Federation Market Basket Survey. The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 basic grocery items was $50.71, down $.60 or about 1% below the second quarter of 2011. Comparatively, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s national survey was $53.12, up $1.95 or 4% higher compared to the second quarter of 2011.
Compared to one year ago at this time, the Arizona third quarter Market Basket is up $4.23 or 9%.
“At the beginning of 2011, a number of factors including growing global demand for food pointed to continued increases in retail food prices, especially for meats. Interestingly, Arizona’s third quarter food prices are slightly lower than the nationwide survey,” explains Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau Director of Public Relations, Marketing and Ag Education. “The impact of the extreme weather conditions around the nation have helped compound the issue, diminishing production and further increasing costs but apparently Arizona may not be feeling the complete impact yet. We have a year-round growing season in this state which could have a minor role. Plus, we have an incredibly competitive grocery industry in Arizona.”
“We can’t ignore energy costs,” said Murphree. “Energy prices rose steadily through the first quarter of the year and into the second quarter, moderating somewhat in the third quarter. For example, according to the Department of Energy, retail diesel prices the fuel for our farm equipment increased from about $3.39 per gallon in January to about $4.05 per gallon in May then dropped to $3.82 at the end of August. We’re told energy prices will remain relatively high for the rest of the year, keeping pressure on retail food prices this year.”
The importance of improving farm practices is not lost on Arizona Farm Bureau members. “To feed the majority of Americans, crop and livestock agriculture must continually become more efficient, and in many cases, larger to spread energy and labor costs across more acres to help stabilize prices at the grocery store,” said John Boelts, vegetable farmer from Yuma, Arizona. Boelts, who said the cost for just one refueling of one large tillage tractor can be more than $600, explained that labor and energy are the two largest operating costs that must be controlled.
To access an entire menu focused on those food items down in price in the third quarter and designed around stretching your food dollar, go to www.fillyourplate.org. Look for the latest “Stretch Your Food Dollar” menu and the additional food savings tips.
Of the 16 items surveyed in Arizona, eight increased and eight decreased compared to the 2011 second quarter survey. The national survey quarter-to-quarter comparison shows 13 increased, two decreased and one stayed the same.
In Arizona, off-the-shelf prices for bacon showed the greatest decrease in price down 37 cents to $4.42 a pound; eggs down 24 cents to $1.64 a dozen; sirloin tip roast down 23 cents to $5.34 a pound; boneless chicken down 23 cents to $3.47 a pound; bagged salad down 18 cents to $2.61 a 1-pound bag; 32-oz bottle of vegetable oil down 8 cents to $2.61; orange juice down 6 cents to $2.98 a half gallon; and 5-pound bag of russet potatoes down 3 cents to $2.96.
Whole milk showed the largest price increase up 30 cents to $2.79 a gallon. The other items that increased in price were red delicious apples up 18 cents to $1.51 a pound; a 5-pound bag of flour up 16 cents to $2.23; bread up 6 cents to $1.60 a 20-ounce loaf; toasted oat cereal up 4 cents to $ 3.29 for the 8.9-oz box; sliced deli ham up 4 cents to $4.75 a pound; shredded cheese up 3 cents to $5.02 a pound and ground chuck up 1 cent to $3.49 a pound.
The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have gradually increased over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.
“In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. That figure has decreased steadily and is now just 16 percent, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s revised Food Dollar Series Department statistics,” explains John Anderson, American Farm Bureau Economist. The USDA’s new Food Dollar Series may be found online at http://www.ers.usda.gov/FoodDollar/app/.
Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the Arizona farmer’s share of this quarter’s $50.71 Market Basket total would be $8.11.
The Farm Bureau Market Basket Survey is unscientific, but serves as a gauge of actual price trends across the state. Arizona’s bargain shoppers statewide should find individual items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages and certainly cheaper with discounts and in-store specials. Arizona Farm Bureau seeks to identify the best in-store price, excluding promotional coupons and special deals.