Local News

Groceries, gas prices on the up and up

SEBRING - Consumers are taking a double hit in the wallet at the supermarket and the fuel pump with rising food and gas prices.

Prices are up on staples such as milk and eggs, along with meats and vegetables. Gas prices have steadily increased in recent weeks and are about 20 cents higher per gallon of regular compared to a month ago.

Trina Holt of Sebring said she and her husband are vegetarians so they eat a lot of produce, including locally grown items.

"It's really expensive in the stores, and it's hard to travel around with the kids, and I have to go to multiple stores to get what I really need from each place," she said.

The 31-year-old remembers when gas was 99 cents a gallon.

"Gas is ridiculous," she said. "We keep a nice even keel of 55 mph and try not to be stop and go."

Sebring winter resident Bob Brenton said food prices are a little bit like gas prices, they tend to jump up and jump back down. Both beef and pork have gone up in price to some extent.

With the gas prices going up, "you have to think about planning your trips a little bit more," he said.

Avon Park winter resident Elaine Norton said the price of meat is very high.

"We eat a lot of chicken," she said. "You can only eat so much pasta."

She and her husband have been keeping an eye on the gas prices.

"At the end of the month we are headed back to Connecticut," she said. "They keep saying that gas was cheaper than it was last year. They are lying."

According to GasBuddy.com, the average price of a gallon of regular gas in Florida Monday was $3.653. A month ago it was $3.451, and $3.571 a year ago.

In Sebring Monday, a gallon of regular gas ranged in price from $3.55 to $3.69, according to GassBuddy.com.

Prices are up primarily due to seasonal factors such as refinery maintenance, the switch-over to summer-blend gasoline and rising demand, according to a recent AAA report .

"Spring is the most frustrating time of year for drivers given that gas prices seem to jump every time you get in the car," said Avery Ash, AAA spokesman.

Food prices rose 0.4 percent in February - the largest increase since September 2001 - due to the higher costs of fish, poultry, meat, dairy and vegetables.

The food-at-home cost price index (CPI) has already increased more in the first two months of 2014 than it did in all of 2013, but given its current trajectory, it is on track for normal annual inflation, according to the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture .

Beef and veal prices, which are already at or near record levels across the country, rose 4 percent in February and are up 5.4 percent over this time last year, according to ERS.

As the largest monthly increase in beef prices since November 2003, this reflects, in part, an increase in exports, a decrease in imports, and further reductions in the U.S. cattle inventory.

Eggs continued their recent surge, increasing 0.7 percent from January to February.

The CPI for eggs is now 5.7 percent above the February 2013 level.

ERS has revised the forecast for egg prices upward in anticipation of increased exports as well as strong domestic demand (due in part to high meat prices) in 2014.

Milk prices, which have been rising since the end of 2013, increased 0.5 percent in February and are up 2.5 percent since last year.

The increase in fruit prices was led by a 4.4-percent increase in apple prices.

The ongoing drought in California could potentially have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy, and egg prices, the ERS advises.

Since 1990, grocery store prices have risen by an average of 2.8 percent per year.


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