U.S.D.A. economist Annemarie Kuhns says Iowa shoppers may have noticed a slight drop in their supermarket bills in recent months. Iowa is the number-one pork producer and Kuhns says pork prices are gradually coming down.
“We’re really seeing the pork industry recover from the effects of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus,” Kuhns says. “We have seen industry expansion and there’s also been a lower volume of pork exports due to the current strength of the U.S. dollar.” While pork prices fell just under 2-percent from February to March, meat prices overall are expected to rise 3- to 4-percent this year, with beef prices bounding 12- to 13-percent.
Kuhns says beef producers are still recovering from record low head counts from a few years ago. “Keep in mind, even once they start expanding their herds, it takes about 16 to 18 months before that meat is ready for market,” Kuhns says. “Also, combined with lower feed prices, we are seeing some of the ranchers now holding on to the cows a little longer so they are heavier weights, because cattle are demanding such a high price currently at market.”
Kuhns says there’s been a big drop in produce prices. “In March, we saw the prices for fresh fruits and vegetables fall 1.3% as compared to February,” she says, “and then looking at the change year over year, they’re also down point-seven percent.”
Food prices overall dropped one-half of one-percent during March, though the agency estimates a 2- to 3-percent increase in food prices in 2015.