Retail prices for food at the supermarket rose slightly in the first quarter of 2006, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey. The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 basic grocery items in the 2006 first quarter was $40.73, up just 3 percent or $1.20 from one year ago.

After declining $1.13 in the fourth quarter of 2005, the surveyed items increased $1.90 in the first quarter of 2006, for a net gain of $.77 over six months. Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 increased and five decreased in average price compared to the 2005 fourth-quarter survey.

Cheddar cheese showed the largest increase, up 50 cents to $3.89 per pound. Other items that increased in price:

  • Ground chuck, up 30 cents to $2.84 per pound;
  • Corn oil, up 25 cents to $2.92 per 32-ounce bottle;
  • Mayonnaise, up 22 cents to $3.28 per 32-ounce jar;
  • Sirloin tip roast, up 20 cents to $3.85 per pound;
  • Flour, up 17 cents to $1.73 per 5-pound bag;
  • Vegetable oil, up 16 cents to $2.61 per 32-ounce bottle;
  • Pork chops, up 15 cents to $3.39 per pound;
  • Apples, up 3 cents to $1.10 per pound;
  • Bread, up 3 cents to $1.43 for a 20-ounce loaf; and
  • Toasted oat cereal, up 2 cents to $2.89 per 10-ounce box.

Items that decreased in price from the fourth quarter of 2005 were:  Russet potatoes, down 6 cents to $2.24 per 5-pound bag; bacon, down 3 cents to $3.09 per pound; and large eggs, down 2 cents to $1.08 per dozen. Whole milk and whole chicken fryers each dropped 1 cent, to $3.16 per gallon and $1.23 per pound, respectively. 

“Higher energy prices did not appear to be a factor in retail food prices during the fourth quarter of 2005, but it appears that they are having an impact now,” said AFBF Senior Economist Terry Francl. “For example, although farm gate prices for livestock, poultry and dairy moved downward during the first quarter of 2006, retail prices for beef and pork cuts are up in the survey, while milk and poultry products dropped insignificantly.”

Retail prices for two items, bread and flour, tracked more closely with prices paid to producers. “The slight retail price increases for bread and flour do correspond with higher farm gate prices for wheat that we’re seeing now, due to drought in the southern wheat belt,” Francl said.

The share of the average food dollar that America's farm and ranch families receive has dropped over time, despite gradual increases in retail grocery prices. “Going back 30 years, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures. That figure has dropped steadily over time and is now just 22 percent, according to USDA statistics,” Francl said.

Using that percentage across-the-board, the farmer's share of this quarter's $40.73 marketbasket total would be $8.96.

AFBF, the nation's largest general farm organization, conducts its informal quarterly marketbasket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends. According to Agriculture Department statistics, Americans spend just 9.5 percent of their disposable income on food annually, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 109 volunteer shoppers in 29 states participated in this latest survey, conducted during February.

American Farm Bureau