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Food Prices Moderate in Fourth Quarter

Food Prices Moderate in Fourth Quarter

Farm Bureau economist says food inflation could be slowing.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation's latest Marketbasket Survey consumers paid a little bit less for groceries in the fourth quarter of 2011. The informal survey shows a 7% decrease to $49.23 from the third quarter survey of the total cost of 16 basic grocery items. Still, that's an increase of 5% when compared to one year ago.

Farm Bureau Senior Economist John Anderson notes the trend of higher prices quarter-to-quarter on a broad range of marketbasket items that started the last quarter of 2010 appears to have reversed, suggeting that food price inflation is slowing down substantially.

About half of the quarter-to-quarter decrease is attributed to meat and dairy products. Prices for sliced deli ham, shredded cheddar, bacon, sirloin tip roast, ground chuck and boneless chicken breasts all decreased. Russet potatoes, Red Delicious apples, flour, vegetable oil, bagged salad, orange juice and toasted oat cereal also went down in price. Of the items included in Farm Bureau's survey only milk and bread increased in price.

While retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, Farm Bureau notes the share of the average food dollar that America's farm and ranch families receive has dropped. Anderson says farmers on average received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home in the mid 70s. That figure now stands at about 16%.

Fifty-three volunteer shoppers in 18 states took part in Farm Bureau's Marketbasket Survey for the fourth quarter. It was conducted late October-early November.

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