The broad spectrum of vendors on hand at the food show Tuesday in the Peoria Civic Center had one thing in common: Concerns about rising food prices. Recent U.S. Labor Department statistics indicate that prices on staples such as bread, milk, eggs, and flour surged last year, increasing at double-digit rates for the first time in 20 years.
The broad spectrum of vendors on hand at the food show Tuesday in the Peoria Civic Center had one thing in common: Concerns about rising food prices.
Recent U.S. Labor Department statistics indicate that prices on staples such as bread, milk, eggs, and flour surged last year, increasing at double-digit rates for the first time in 20 years.
Some of the 140 vendors who worked the food show, staged annually by East Peoria food distributor Waugh Foods, pointed to rising grain prices as the root cause for inflated food costs.
"Corn and wheat are up. That affects everything," said James Hill of Concept Food Brokers of Arlington Heights, who said that farmers were opting to deliver some of their corn for fuel to meet rising ethanol demand rather than for food.
"We’re also buying wheat on the open market for the first time since 1948," said Hill, standing behind a table of bread products that his company sells to schools and restaurants.
Rising wheat costs haven’t gone unnoticed at Agatucci’s Restaurant in Peoria. The eatery uses wheat in pasta, bread sticks and pizza, noted owner Jim Agatucci, who dropped by to visit with Waugh Foods founder Joe Waugh.
"Last year we were paying $9.50 for a 50-pound bag of flour. Last week that same bag cost $34," Agatucci said.
His son, Tony Agatucci, said the restaurant was trying to hold the line before raising menu prices. "If prices keep going up, eventually we’ll have to recover those costs," he said.
Waugh said "a perfect storm" of factors was responsible for the latest surge in food prices. "Everything’s going up -- wheat, corn and soybeans. Fuel prices started it and continue to rise. The U.S. dollar is so cheap that countries like China are buying large quantities of American commodities," Waugh said.
While beef costs have increased at a slower rate than other food items, that industry is still affected, said Bob Widauf, the field market manager for National Beef Co. of Kansas City, Mo.
"It costs more now to feed the animal and to transport it. We just raised our delivery charge by one cent per pound," he said.
Not all the price increases on food items are due to a rise in corn or gas prices, said Michael Weiner, regional sales manager for Chicago-based Carriage House Manufacturing, holding up a jar of peanut butter. Weiner blamed a drought in the southeast for driving peanut prices up 50 percent.
The rise in commodity prices isn’t likely to subside anytime soon, said Jim Hoyt, vice president of strategic planning for the Bloomington-based farmers cooperative Growmark.
"The demand for corn and soybeans is global. In fact, it’s likely to increase. You’ve got a billion people in China and India who have more income and want a better diet," Hoyt said.
Adam Nielsen, spokesman for the Bloomington-based Illinois Farm Bureau, said that 25 years of moderate increases in food costs have made the recent spike in food prices more pronounced.
"Corn is an investment today -- rather than real estate," he said.
Steve Tarter can be reached at (309) 686-3260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.