From bread to beans to butter, consumers are seeing the prices of certain foods rising as the fallout from the disastrous summer drought of 1988 hits home.
But, while the costs of grain-based products, dairy products and vegetables are rising, dire mid-summer predictions of rapidly spiraling beef prices and price-gouging by meat processors have not come true.So far, the biggest price increases have been in grain-based products, said Bob Rice, grocery products merchandiser for Kroger's Cincinnati-Dayton division.
Hard durum wheat suffered the most dramatic impact from the dry spell, so pasta products such as spaghetti and macaroni have continued to rise in price since spring. Wheat flours also cost more, continuing to push up bread prices.
"We've also seen tremendous price increases in the dairy category - butter, milk, ice cream, cottage cheese - because of the drought," said Rice.
"Another area hard hit is the vegetable lineup (canned and frozen), especially peas, corn and green beans. Peas were severely impacted because a lot come from Midwest growing areas" most affected by the drought.
"Next year, I would expect tight supplies" of those canned vegetables, Rice said.
Many major tomato processors are located in northern Ohio, where the tomato harvest is down this fall. But major firms, such as Campbell's, also buy from California - the leading supplier of tomatoes for processing - so those prices can be averaged out, Rice predicted.
Beef prices, however, have not fluctuated as much as predicted, said Gary Philbin, a meat merchandiser for Kroger.
"Eventually, enough rain fell here and there, and the government opened range lands to cattle growers, and that saved a lot of people from liquidating their herds," he said.
Philbin said beef prices will rise in December and January, but not as much as was feared in July.
He said chicken prices are higher not only due to rising feed costs, but also because more fast-food restaurants are adding chicken items.
Pork prices have remained fairly steady despite the drought because hog-raising is not as centralized as beef production.