If there was any good news for U.S. consumers concerning food prices in 2023, it’s that prices rose at a much slower pace than they did a year earlier, when the inflation rate on some items ran in double digits. Consumers should continue to see a slowing of food inflation in 2024, according to a new federal government report. Just don’t expect prices to go down.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its latest forecast on food prices based on statistical models tied to recent trends. In 2024, overall food prices in the United States are predicted to increase 2.1%, with a prediction interval that ranges from a decrease of 2.1% to an increase of 6.7%. This means prices could theoretically go down depending on various factors — but they could also shoot much higher.
Food-at-home prices are projected to rise only 1% in 2024, with a prediction interval ranging from a decline of 5.5% to an increase of 7.8%. Food-away-from-home prices are expected to increase 4.4%, with a prediction interval of 2.2% to 6.7% — meaning you can be pretty sure restaurant and takeout prices will keep pushing higher next year.
Overall, the 2024 forecast calls for a continued slowing in food inflation compared with previous years.
Food Prices Continue To Climb… Just Not as Quickly
In September 2023, overall food prices climbed 3.7% from a year earlier, according to the USDA. While that wasn’t exactly cheery news for consumers already shell-shocked by high inflation, it did represent a major slowdown from 2022, when overall food prices rose nearly 10% year-over-year.
Here are some of the other recent trends cited by the USDA:
- In 2020, food-at-home prices increased 3.5% and food-away-from-home prices rose 3.4%.
- In 2021, food-at-home prices climbed 3.5% and food-away-from-home prices rose 4.5%.
- In 2022, food-at-home prices soared 11.4%, while food-away-from-home prices increased 7.7%.
There is some good news heading into 2024. Food-at-home prices were 2.4% higher in September 2023 compared to September 2022 — the lowest year-over-year gain since June 2021, according to the USDA.
Egg and poultry prices are also expected to continue easing in 2024 from the soaring highs they hit last year. In September 2023, egg prices fell a whopping 14.5% from the prior year due to an easing of the global avian flu outbreak, known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or HPAI.
“There have been no confirmed cases of HPAI in commercial egg layers since December 2022, but HPAI was confirmed in commercial turkey flocks in October 2023 for the first time since April 2023,” the USDA stated in its report.
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