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Drought to drive up food prices in the U.S.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 28th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The lack of rainfall throughout the United States is certain to drive up prices at the supermarket. Food prices are certain creep up by three percent to four percent by 2012, the Department of Agriculture reports.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "In 2013 as a result of this drought we are looking at above-normal food price inflation. ... Consumers are certainly going to feel it," USDA economist Richard Volpe says.

Among the food to be most dramatically affected will be milk, eggs, beef, poultry and pork. The prices of feed have driven up the cost of animal-based foodstuffs. In particular, beef prices are expected to see the biggest jump at four percent to five percent.

Dairy product prices are forecast to climb 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent; poultry and egg prices are projected to rise 3 percent to 4 percent; and pork prices are expected to rise 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent in 2013.

The U.S. drought has sent the prices of corn, soybean and other commodity prices soaring in recent weeks as fields dry out and crops wither across much of the country's midsection.

The one bit of good news is that Volpe says the drought is not expected to affect prices for fruits and vegetables as most of those crops are irrigated. The USDA is projecting an overall two to three percent increase for all fruits and vegetables next year, the same as it expects this year.

"This drought was a surprise for everybody," Volpe said, adding that USDA economists were aware of the drought a month ago but didn't know how bad it the projection would become.

"The USDA was forecasting a record year for the corn crop until this drought materialized. Now we're not going to get that."

Scott Shellady, a commodities trader in Chicago, said the situation with the corn crop could affect other countries as well because U.S. food exports have increased dramatically in the last couple of decades.

"So we have an issue here where we have been feeding the world, but we're going to have to slowly but surely dampen down those exports," Shellady said.

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