Food prices skyrocket

PASADENA, Calif. Experts say prices could soar even higher for some staple items in 2009.

"The produce stuff, of course, has changed. And, you know, milk and ... everything has gone up," said shopper Peter Chatham.

"Some things up a few cents, some things up as much as a dollar. And it does make a big difference when you're retired, especially when you're on a fixed income," said Carole Bishop, another shopper.

United States consumers are seeing the biggest increase in food prices in 18 years.

"It has been an unusual period because, typically, year-to-year, food prices will go up 2 percent a year. That has been the typical pattern. The past few years it has been higher than that," said Dave Kranz, California Farm Bureau Federation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the cost of food is up 5 to 6 percent this year, which is higher than originally forecasted. Prices are expected to climb another four to five percent in 2009 because of surging meat and produce prices.

You are likely to see highest increases in fruits and vegetables, which are up between 5.5 percent. Cereals and bakery products have seen a 9.5 percent increase. Eggs are up 14 percent. Finally, fats and oils are up 13.5 percent.

A spokesperson for the California Farm Bureau Federation, a private nonprofit group of 92,000 farmers, says fuel, among other things, is what is driving the cost of food.

"The main factors that are affecting food prices at the consumer level are the cost of fuel to get the food products to market and global forces, such as the rising demand around the world for various food stuffs," said Kranz.

Kranz added that although the increases are steep, Americans spend just 10 percent of their income on food.

However, for shoppers like Mary Mead, who has two children to feed, the cost of food is making her reevaluate everything she buys.

"Cooking differently ... cheaper meals," said Mead.

Experts say Californians can save money by buying locally grown produce. It is generally less expensive than produce that has been shipped from out of state.


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