Rising Food Prices Due to Drought, Disease, and Rising Demand

Published 07/04 2014 01:35PM

Updated 07/04 2014 01:48PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- You may notice higher prices as you head to the store to buy your meat, and produce this holiday weekend.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports the cost of food is up 2.5% since May. 

The federal government says this trend will likely continue, and expects food prices to rise an additional 3.5% percent in 2014.

"It raises costs for everybody.  For restaurants, people at the grocery store buying food...just overall it's affecting our community big time," says Matt Tolliver Vice President at Gold Crown Food. 

Tolliver has grown up in his family-owned wholesale food distributor business.  He says prices of perishable foods -- like meats and produce -- are climbing at a higher rate than prices of packaged foods.  "And even in the last four years things have dramatically increased," adds Tolliver.

Charley Roux is a local college student who is noticing higher food prices.  "So it's like people that want to eat healthy can't eat healthy because what's healthy now it's going to be a lot more expensive. I really do find it discouraging that we have to buy these processed foods. You can find those a bit cheaper than organic foods that are a lot healthier," says Roux.

These price increases can be attributed to drought, disease, and growing demand.

"Most of our produce supply comes from California, northern Mexico, and Florida," says Tolliver.  California's weather drove produce prices up.  "In the springtime they had a very cold spring.  All the crops were coming on late.  It was a supply and demand issue," explains Tolliver.

California's weather went from one extreme to another.  Now, California crops -- like lettuce and tomatoes -- are suffering from drought.  The price of a 20 pound box of tomatoes has increased about 32% on average since last year.

"In Florida they've been having flooding down there this spring.  It was a lot colder than usual," explains Tolliver.  This plus the citrus greening disease in Florida contributes to a 7.3% rise in citrus fruit prices since last year.

"The prices of produce...discouraging! It's like I could afford Ramen noodles way more than I can produce," comments Roux.

Pork prices are up 12.2% since last year.  "Beef, chicken, and pork especially this year alone has increased faster.  It's higher than I've ever seen it," says Tolliver.  This is mainly due to the pig virus.  "It killed, I think they said over seven million piglets, and it put a huge dent in our supply.  They just haven't recovered from that," explains Tolliver.

The federal government expects the price of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and pork to rise the highest.  Fruit prices alone are expected to rise 6% this year.

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