If you’ve looked at your grocery bill lately, it’s no surprise that food costs rose during the first quarter of the year.

These are the findings of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s latest market basket survey. The informal survey on the total cost of 16 basic grocery items shows an increase of $2.41 from the 2003 fourth quarter survey.

Volunteer shoppers paid an average of $39.84 for the 16 items, which also is $3.78 higher than the 2003 first quarter survey average of $36.06, according to the AFBF. Of the 16 items surveyed, 13 increased, two decreased and one remained the same in average price compared to the 2003 fourth quarter survey. The 13 items that posted retail price increases included whole fryers (up $0.22 to $1.24 per pound), pork chops (up $0.19 to $3.42 per pound), bacon, (up $0.09 to $3.00 per pound), and sirloin tip roast (up $0.02 to $3.52 per pound).

Vegetable oil showed the largest increase, up $0.48 cents to $2.76 per 32-ounce bottle, followed closely by corn oil, up $0.46 to $3.09 per 32-ounce bottle. Other large increases were for flour (up $0.28 to $1.62 per five-pound bag) and apples (up $0.24 to $1.22 per pound).

AFBF senior economist Terry Francl says that a substantial portion of the increase in overall food prices can be attributed to higher energy prices, which directly affects costs associated with food processing and distribution.

The two items showed that posted price decreases were milk (dropped $0.02 to $2.87 per gallon) and ground chuck (dropped $0.01 to $2.48 per pound).

"Despite steady increases in grocery store average prices over time, the share of the average food dollar received by America's farm and ranch families has actually dropped," notes Francl. "This reflects a long-standing trend. Thirty years ago farmers received one-third of consumer retail food expenditures."

According to the most recent USDA statistics cited by the AFBF, America's farmers and ranchers receive just $0.19 out of every dollar spent for food. Using that across-the-board percentage, the farmer's share of this quarter's market basket average total would be approximately $7.57.

Source: MeatNews