Grocery prices rose 1.5% in March and 10% over the last 12 months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday morning. The 12-month increase is the largest in 31 years.

Prices for all items “continued to accelerate, rising 8.5 percent for the 12 months ending March, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981,” BLS said. The increase in March for the “all-items index” was 1.2%; that followed a 0.8% February increase. 

The overall food index, which also covers meals eaten at restaurants, increased 1% in March. Over the last 12 months, the “food away from home” category was up 6.9% and the index for full-service meals was up 8%.

Fuel costs also rose, BLS said. “The gasoline index rose 18.3 percent in March and accounted for over half of the all items monthly increase,” according to the CPI announcement.

The energy index, which rose 11% in March, is up 32% over 12 months. Gas prices are now up 48% over the last year, with natural gas also up but by not as much, at 0.6% for the month and 21.6% since March 2021.

The White House had expected energy prices to continue to rise but said releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve should help improve the situation. The administration also sought to soften the blow by announcing the use of emergency authority to allow summertime sales of E15 on Tuesday, a move officials hope will give consumers a less expensive option at the pump. 

Looking for the best, most comprehensive and balanced news source in agriculture? Our Agri-Pulse editors don't miss a beat! Sign up for a free month-long subscription.

Prices for nearly all food groups increased in March. Meats, poultry and fish were up 1.3% and 13.8% over the past year. Beef and veal rose 1% and 16% for the year. Eggs increased 1.9% in March and 11.2% for the year.

Pork was up 1.4% (15.3% for the year); poultry 1.5% (13.2%); milk 1.1% (13.3%); and fresh fruits and vegetables 0.8% (8.1%).

Citrus took a larger jump than most foods, with prices rising 3.1% in March and 19.5% over the past 12 months. Lettuce was up by 3% and 12% over the past year.

Fats and oils were up 2.3%, pushing that category to an increase of 14.9% on the year. Butter and margarine prices jumped 5.5%, contributing to a 12-month increase of 14%.

Cereals and bakery products rose 1.8% for the month and 9.4% over the past year. Prices for flour and prepared flour mixes were up 2.6% for March and 14.2% over the past 12 months.

For more news, go