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Food Prices Increased 0.5% in January, Up 10.1% From Year Ago- Egg Prices Climb 8.5% in January

Wall Street Journal writer Gwynn Guilford reported on the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal that, “Still-elevated inflation cooled slightly at the start of 2023 to 6.4% in January from a year earlier, with energy, housing, food and other items keeping some pressure on prices.

“The increase in the consumer-price index, a closely watched measure of inflation, edged down from 6.5% in December, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That marked the seventh straight month of easing inflation since peaking at 9.1% in June, the highest reading since 1981.

But the cooling trend is moderating. On a monthly basis, CPI rose 0.5% in January from December, compared with a previous 0.1% increase.”

The Wall Street Journal (Front Page – February 15, 2023).

More narrowly with respect to food prices, Ana Swanson reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “Monthly growth in food prices accelerated slightly in January, reversing a gradual decline seen in recent months, as the price of eggs, cookies and citrus fruits all rose.

Food prices grew 0.5 over the month, ticking up slightly compared with an increase of 0.4 percent in December. A price index for meats, poultry, fish and eggs increased in January, as did another for cereals and bakery products. An overall index for fruits and vegetables fell from the previous month, while an index for dairy products was unchanged.”

Swanson explained that, “The price of eggs was up 8.5 percent from the previous month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said, as an outbreak of avian influenza around the United States continues to cause egg prices to surge. However, other measures, like a market report compiled by the Agriculture Department, show that the price of eggs has been dropping sharply in recent months. The average price of large eggs dropped from more than $5 a carton earlier this year to less than $3 in February, the department said.

On an annual basis, the food index was up 10.1 percent. The price of food at restaurants rose 0.6 percent from the previous month, outpacing 0.4 percent monthly growth in the price of groceries.

The Times article added that, “But key costs for farmers like fuel and transportation have retreated from highs last year, helping to lessen some of the price pressures in the food sector. A food price index created by the United Nations declined for its tenth consecutive month in January, after reaching an all-time high last March.

“Still, food prices remain uncomfortably high for many consumers, especially lower-income people who spend a greater share of their money on food. Many parts of the Western United States continue to experience extreme drought, which has reduced supplies and pushed up prices for products like alfalfa hay, an important feed for livestock and dairy cows.”

Elsewhere, Bloomberg writer Michael Hirtzer reported yesterday that, “Breakfast is getting even more expensive after US egg prices soared 8.5% in January while citrus fruits, cereal and baked goods also climbed.

Egg prices have been surging amid the nation’s worst-ever outbreak of deadly bird flu that decimated chicken flocks. One outbreak late last year wiped out more than a million birds, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Although wholesale prices have started to slip from all-time highs, that hasn’t yet rippled through to grocery stores.

A dozen eggs now command on average $4.82, more than a pound of chicken breast, pork chops, ground beef, processed American cheese or even a gallon of gasoline.

“Egg Prices Jump 8.5% as Food Inflation Hits Consumers,” by Michael Hirtzer. Bloomberg News (February 14, 2023).

“The 70% surge in egg prices from a year ago has been the steepest 12-month rise in four decades.”

“Egg Prices Jump 8.5% as Food Inflation Hits Consumers,” by Michael Hirtzer. Bloomberg News (February 14, 2023).

Hirtzer pointed out that, “Meanwhile, citrus supplies are tight after a devastating hurricane season slammed orchards in Florida. Oranges and tangerines jumped 2.8% in January, according to the data.”

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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