Supermarket prices shot up a seasonally adjusted 1.4% in May, led by soaring costs for dairy products, and have risen 11.9% over the past 12 months, according to the latest Consumer Price Index.
The increase in food prices last month was lower than the jump in energy prices, but the continued strong inflation in the grocery aisle contributed to an overall, seasonally adjusted increase in the CPI of 1% in May, up from the 0.3% increase in April.
The index for dairy prices surged 2.9%, after a 2.5% increase in April. The cost of milk, which is up nearly 16% from a year ago, shot up 2.8% in May. The price of ice cream jumped 4.3%.
The index for cereals, grains and bakery products jumped 1.5%, led by a 2.6% increase in the price of rice and a 1.5% increase in the cost of bakery products.
President Joe Biden on Friday issued a statement saying the report “underscores why I have made fighting inflation my top economic priority.” He also continued to blame Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for increases in food and fuel prices, and he reiterated his call for the House to clear the Senate-passed Ocean Shipping Reform Act next week.
Biden and congressional Democrats also have targeted meat processors for blame when it comes to food inflation. To that end, the House also will consider a package of bills next week that include a measure that would create a special investigator’s office in USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division.
But beef prices in particular have started to ease, declining 0.7% in May after falling 0.9% the month before and rising 0.3% in March.
There was no change in pork prices in May. Poultry prices rose 3% in May and egg prices jumped another 5%. The poultry sector was hit hard by an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza this spring. Egg prices are 32.2% higher than they were in May 2021, while chicken prices are 17.4% higher.
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Prices for fats and oils also were sharply higher, rising 2.2%.
Overall food prices, including the cost of eating away from home, have risen 10.1% over the past year, the first increase in food costs of 10% or more since the year ending March 1981.
The energy price index rose 3.9% in May, driven by a 4.1% increase in gasoline prices.
Inflation is almost certain to be a top issue for voters heading into the mid-term elections, and Republicans are also using the issue to try to ensure Biden can't get Democrats to revive his Build Back Better spending plan.
“Inflation remains painfully high, gas prices have been setting all-time highs and families are choosing to cut everyday expenses to make ends meet," said Sen. Mike Crapo, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. "The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says rampant inflation and rising interest rates will continue to fuel deficits and crowd out other fiscal priorities. In the face of growing risks of recession and stagflation, notions of increasing taxes or massive new spending bills must be rejected.”
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