(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
"We've had very few price changes over the last couple months," said Sikeston Save-A-Lot Manager Eddie Moore. "It's actually amazed me."
And at Sikeston Marketplace, store manager Mike Riney said there haven't been too many price increases either.
"Since November we've had two categories that have increased. They are the potato and the coffee market," Riney noted.
Potato chips have increased about 10 cents per bag and coffee about 10 cents per pound, Riney explained.
Each quarter, the American Farm Bureau sends volunteers to grocery stores to check the price of 16 basic grocery items. During the final quarter of the year, the 16 items increased 71 cents over the last quarter. The average cost of the 16 food items was $35.59.
Missouri is one of 29 state Farm Bureaus participating in the quarterly Marketbasket Survey reflecting retail food price trends.
"The Missouri Farm Bureau is one of many states participating in the American Farm Bureau's informal survey of food prices each quarter," said Diane Olson, director of promotion and education for the Missouri Farm Bureau, in a recent statement. "Our county volunteers work hard to avoid advertised specials and in store specials used to draw shoppers to keep our survey as accurate as possible."
Fourth quarter food prices, though higher, were still below food prices from the first quarter, and second and third quarter food prices were lower than both first and fourth quarter prices.
According to Olson, Russet potatoes dropped 61 cents this quarter, Additionally, all-purpose flour was down a dime for a 5-pound bag and pork chops were down 4 cents a pound. The largest increases were for sirloin tip roast, up 27 cents a pound; corn oil, up 21 cents per 32-ounce bottle; and oat cereal, up 15 cents per 10 ounce box. Red Delicious apples and a loaf of white bread were unchanged.
Moore said Save-A-Lot did have a price increase in cereals, but not any of the other items listed above.
Usually in December, Marketplace sees an increase in the milk market, but they didn't go up this year, Riney added.
In spite of the fact fourth quarter prices increased overall, not all food products were higher, which seems to be the case for Marketplace and Save-A-Lot.
"In a conventional store, you might get page after page of changes. I don't really see a lot of changes here, though," noted Moore, who's been working at Save-A-Lot since last August and is a former employee of other area grocery stores. Even though food prices were higher during the fourth quarter, food prices for the entire year of 2002 were unchanged to slightly lower.
"We've hardly made any price changes throughout the whole year, which really is unusual," Riney said, adding that he couldn't explain the recent trend.
The Farm Bureau indicated food prices fluctuate for many reasons such as seasonal demand and weather affecting crops and produce.
Riney said Marketplace's price jumps are due to an increase in the demand of the products and seasonal reasons.
"If they have freezing weather in Florida, then our citrus market will go up. If they have a bad season with coffee in South America, then our coffee prices will go up," Riney said.
For Save-A-Lot the cause of increased food costs has been wholesaling.
"Save-A-Lot's prices are dictated by its wholesaler," Moore said. "When they send changes to us, we must make them."