Rising Food Prices: Why is food so Expensive?

June 19, 2023 8 min read

why is food so expensive

Why are groceries so expensive? It seems like every few months, there’s a new news story about the rising food prices. 

According to Steve Morris, an agriculture expert at GAO, prices are projected to increase at a slower rate in 2023 compared to 2022—but they will still exceed the average annual increase of 2%. 

Morris stated during a recent podcast that this year's prices are expected to rise between 5% and 10%, with an estimated average of 8%, indicating that prices will remain high.

In the United States, grocery prices went up by 12.1% in the last quarter of 2022. Grocery staples like eggs, potatoes, rice, sugar, cocoa, meat, etc., also became more expensive over the past year. 

According to the US Department of Agriculture, food prices are expected to go up in 2023 as well. All grocery items are expected to become 6.2% more expensive, while food-at-home prices are predicted to increase by 6.3%. 

Unfortunately, this trend isn't limited to just one country—it's a global issue! World food prices have reached an all-time high, causing food riots in various countries. So what's going on? Let’s dive in to find out. 

Statistics on Food Price Increase

Statistics on Food Price Increase

Before jumping right into our main discussion—why is food so expensive?—let's take a quick look at recent statistics on rising food prices.

Inflation rates have been increasing worldwide since 2021. This is primarily due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The United States has been experiencing some of the worst inflation in several decades. In February 2022, the Consumer Price Index (the most widely used measure of inflation) rose 0.8%. This brought the increase over the previous twelve months to a whopping 7.9%, which is the highest rate the country has seen in 40 years.

The latest data from the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the United States shows that prices have been steadily rising since February 2021. As of March 2023, the unadjusted CPI for all items consumed by urban consumers was around 301.84. This means that the cost of living in urban areas of the United States has gone up compared to the benchmark period of 1982–1984.

Fortunately, in May 2023, the FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) decreased to 124.3 points. That's a 2.6% drop from April and a whopping 22.1% decrease from its all-time high in March 2022. 

We saw some big price changes in different food categories. For instance, vegetable oils, cereals, and dairy prices went down; however, sugar, rice, and meat prices decided to go in the opposite direction. It's like a rollercoaster ride for your wallet!

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Decrease in Prices of Vegetable Oils and Cereals 

Vegetable oils like soybeans, sunflower, rapeseed, and palm oil became 8.7% cheaper. The prices of these grocery items have been dropping for the past six months in a row. This is great for consumers looking to save money on their grocery bills.

Moreover, cereal prices have also gone down, with grains like wheat decreasing by 4.8%. In fact, they are now 25.3% lower than they were a year ago, when they were at a record-high value. This is great news for families looking to save money on their breakfast foods and baked goods.

The decrease in cereal prices is due to a few factors. Firstly, people expect a lot of grain to be available worldwide in the next farming season. Additionally, there is a special farming initiative in the Black Sea region, which is giving everyone high hopes for increased production.

Moreover, world maize prices also fell by 9.8% in May. This is because more maize will be available globally, with Brazil and the United States expecting higher production. Barley and sorghum prices also dropped significantly. 

In addition, the cost of dairy products, like milk and cheese, also went down. Dairy prices dropped by 3.2%, which means that buying milk became a little cheaper than it was a year ago. And as for cheese, its prices went down even more, making it more affordable for people who enjoy cheese on their sandwiches or pizzas. 

However, Rising Prices of Meat, Sugar, and Other Food Items Offset the Overall Decrease

However, Rising Prices of Meat, Sugar, and Other Food Items Offset the Overall Decrease

In May, the cost of meat went up by 1%. This increase has been happening for four months in a row. The demand for chicken and beef has gone up, and that's why their prices have increased.

What’s more, the sugar price went up for the fourth consecutive month—by 5.5%. This happened because people are worried about how the El Niño weather pattern may affect the crops in the upcoming season. There is also less sugar available globally this season than people initially expected.

Additionally, rice prices also continued to increase in May. This happened because there was less rice available from countries like Vietnam and Pakistan; so, when there's less rice to buy, the price goes up.

Furthermore, baby food and formula prices jumped by 4.3%, lettuce increased by 3%, citrus fruit saw a jump of 1.3%, and snacks became 1.2% more expensive. Additionally, apples experienced a slight increase of 1%, and fresh fruits went up by 0.9%. Peanut butter also saw a rise in price, increasing by 0.8%.

Overall, the increase in prices of these items has balanced out the overall decrease, meaning you may still find your overall grocery bill expensive. 

SEE RELATED: Food Shortages in 2023 

Reasons Behind Rising Food Prices

Now to our main discussion: Why are groceries so expensive? 

As we said earlier, rising food prices are a concern for everyone around the globe. Many families are now feeling the financial strain as they witness food prices rising steadily over the past year. In fact, the increase in the price of many basic foods has caused many families in the US to cut back on how much they spend on groceries. 

Here are some of the reasons behind why groceries are so expensive::

Supply and Demand Imbalances

When there is a shortage of a particular food item, its price tends to go up due to high demand and low supply. This can happen due to various factors. For instance, population growth, changing dietary preferences, and increased food consumption in developing countries can contribute to higher demand.   

Plus, extreme weather events, natural disasters, pests, and diseases can disrupt agricultural production, leading to lower supply and higher prices.  

Climate Shock and Natural Disasters

Climate change can impact food production in a variety of ways; for instance, changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, and increased frequency of extreme weather events. These changes can lead to lower crop yields, higher production costs, and, ultimately, rising food prices.

In the last few years, climate change has had a significant impact on food production globally:

  • Hurricane Matthew caused severe crop and livestock damage in Haiti's southern and southwestern regions in 2016

  • In 2019, an invasion of locusts in East Africa significantly damaged crops and pastures. 

  • Furthermore, desert locusts have also caused extensive damage in Ethiopia, resulting in the loss of over 3 million metric tons of cereal. They also destroyed over 1.9 million hectares of cropland and 1 million hectares of pastureland. Today, over 1 million Ethiopians need food help due to these losses.

  • In 2021, the winter storm that occurred in Texas disrupted the production, distribution, and supply of food, causing shortages to appear on a large scale.

SEE RELATED: Global Food Shortages

Rising Food Production and Transportation Costs

Rising Food Production and Transportation Costs

Farmers need various inputs to produce food. These include seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and machinery.

The United States is a very self-reliant country when it comes to food. We produce much of our food domestically and don't rely much on other countries to feed ourselves. Only about 15% of the country's overall food supply is imported from abroad.

However, we import many of the pesticides and fertilizers that help us produce these crops from other countries, including the European Union and Russia. 

Russia has been the biggest supplier of fertilizers—and fertilizer prices are increasing with the ongoing war, resulting in increased prices on most grocery items. 

If the prices of any inputs increase, farmers face higher production costs, which are ultimately passed on to consumers. 

Furthermore, food production and distribution rely heavily on energy, including fuel for machinery and transportation. When energy prices go up, these costs are again passed on to consumers through higher food prices.

Trade Policies and Tariffs Affect Food Prices

Trade restrictions are another major cause of rising food prices. Imposing tariffs or trade barriers on certain food products can limit supply and increase domestic prices. Similarly, disruptions in international trade can affect food availability and prices. 

For instance, a few years ago, the US raised tariffs on goods imported from China by a significant amount. Unfortunately, this increase in tariffs directly impacts food prices, causing them to go up. 

“A tariff on imports,” says Shang-Jin Wei, a professor of Finance and Economics at Columbia University, “essentially is a tax on consumer products."

Strategies to Mitigate the Impact of Rising Food Prices

Here are some strategies to help mitigate the impact of rising food prices:

  • Plan Your Meals and Make a Grocery List: This can help you avoid impulse purchases and reduce food waste, which can save you money in the long run.

  • Buy in Bulk: Non-perishable foods can save money and ensure access to affordable and nutritious food options during times of rising food prices. They have a longer shelf life, can be bought in bulk, and are less affected by price fluctuations and supply chain disruptions.

  • Shop for Deals: Look for discounts, promotions, and coupons to save money on your grocery bill.

  • Buy Generic or Store-Brand Products: These products can be just as good as name-brand items. But they are often less expensive.

  • Grow Your Own Food: If you have space, consider growing your own fruits and vegetables. This can be a fun and cost-effective way to get fresh produce.

  • Support Local Farmers: Buying from local farmers can help support the local economy and reduce transportation costs, which can lower the price of produce.

SEE RELATED: Things To Stock Up on Before a Depression

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Importance of Food Storage to Offset Rising Food Prices

As the world faces a high demand for food, it’s inevitable that the prices of food items will also rise. Unfortunately, this means that grocery staples such as eggs, poultry, meats, vegetables, fruits, etc., will likely become more expensive.

However, it’s important to stay prepared and proactive in the face of this challenge. While you can’t just buy some extra vegetables and beef and keep it on hand for the next 25 years, Valley Food Storage offers the next best things by offering long term, shelf stable food that’s easy to buy, easy to store and easy to eat. Here are a few reasons why having survival food storage in place is essential:

Cost Savings

By storing food, you can avoid paying higher prices during times of scarcity or increased demand. Looking at our supply costs, we don’t expect the cost of long term food storage to ever be lower than it is now. It’s only going to increase, so if you’ve been putting off getting stocked up, now is the time.

Food Security

A food storage system can help ensure that households have access to food during economic uncertainty, natural disasters, or other emergencies. Since our survival food is shelf stable for 25 years, you can pay today’s prices for food that you’re not going to eat for 15 or 20 years. Imagine being able to buy food now at the price it was 15 years ago. The second best thing is to buy it now so you’ll have it 15 years from now.

Convenience

A well-organized food storage system can make meal planning and preparation easier and more efficient. This can help reduce food waste, save time, and reduce the need for frequent trips to the grocery store.

 

SEE RELATED: Are Survival Food Kits Worth It?

The Bottom Line: Why Are Groceries So Expensive?

To sum it up, food prices have been fluctuating recently, with some items becoming cheaper while others are becoming more expensive, but the prevailing trend is continued rising food prices. This can be tough on our wallets, especially when it comes to staples like eggs, poultry, meats, vegetables, fruits, etc. 

That's why having a food storage system is crucial during times of rising food prices. It can help households save money, ensure food security, promote convenience, and provide many health benefits. So make sure you have your family ready, because this ride isn’t ending anytime soon.