Food Costs Rise the Most in 17 Years

In anticipation of a much larger than usual jump in the national Consumer Price Index, analysts are predicting the worst food inflation in 17 years.

Experts predict that the CPI will have risen 4 percent in the first three months of 2008, up from last year’s overall rise of 2.8 percent.

In 2007, food prices also rose some 4 percent, compared with an annual rise of 2.5 % for the last 15 years, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. And the agency says that next year could even be worse.

While U.S. households spend a small amount of their expenses for foods than any other country (we spend 7.2 percent while Egypt and Vietnam spends close to 40 percent) the prices are significant. Eggs cost 25 percent more in February 2008 than they did in 2007. Milk and other dairy products jumped 13 percent while chicken and other poultry jumped nearly 7 percent.

To keep up, American restaurants have so far raised their prices an average of 3 percent. Even local Food Banks have had vendors raise their costs almost 20 percent.

USDA economist Ephraim Leibtag said that the inflation factors are easily discerned.

“There are sharply higher commodity costs for wheat, corn, soybeans and milk, plus higher energy and transportation costs,” he said.

Oklahoma Public Employees Executive Director Sterling Zearley says these figures should register with state lawmakers who have given state employees only two raises in the past seven years.

“Our state employees are working at some 12% behind their private sector counterparts,” he said. “How can we expect these hard working public servants to continue to drive to work and feed their families, much less send their children through college and live other facets of the American dream?”

Zearley said that his association continues to work for a pay raise this session.

“It’s time for someone in the leadership of this state to do the right thing and demand that our state employees are compensated fairly,” he said.

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