Riots prompted partly by rising costs have toppled governments in Egypt and Tunisia and contributed to unrest in other parts of northern Africa and the Middle East.
Surging pork and beef costs will keep pressure on U.S. food inflation, which the USDA says will rise 3% to 4% this year, the most since 2008.
While the overall estimate for food inflation was left unchanged in the report, USDA says prices for meat, poultry and fish will jump 5 to 6%, led by beef, which may climb 8%, and pork, which could gain 7.5%. The beef estimate was increased by 2.5 percentage points from March and pork was raised 1 percentage point.
“I suspect when December arrives we will see increases of 4 to 6%” for the year in overall prices, says Bill Lapp, the president of Advanced Economic Solutions, an agricultural-research company based in Omaha, NE. “The pressure on food prices is clearly on the upside,” says Lapp, a former chief economist for ConAgra Foods Inc.
Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that food costs rose 0.7% in March, capping a 2% gain for the first quarter. Cattle futures traded in Chicago were up 6.3% for the year through April 21, and hogs had increased 25%, on rising export demand. Crude oil surged 33%.
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