WASHINGTON — Total food prices this calendar year will rise 2.5% to 3.5%, according to a forecast just released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

Much of the rise will result from the delayed effects of last year’s drought in the Midwest.

Even though the drought was severe, destroying a huge amount of field crops, food prices remained flat during 2012.


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That’s because, while prices rose for beef and veal, poultry, fruit and other foods, those hikes were offset by drops in the price of pork, eggs, vegetables and nonalcoholic beverages. Other food categories remained flat.

Read more: Fresh Food Prices Set to Rise in 2013

In addition, while the drought ravaged corn and soybean crops, which does affect food prices, it typically takes months for commodity price changes to show themselves at retail, according to the ERS.

“Most of the impact of the drought is expected to be realized in 2013,” the ERS report states.

Not surprisingly, beef prices are already up 1.7% in May over last year in May. Conversely, a decline in exports and an increase in hog production have kept pork prices almost flat. In fact, May pork prices were down 0.2% from May a year ago.

USDA’s ERS bases its forecast on current conditions and inflation.

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