The bomb cyclone and flooding that damaged a huge section of U.S. Midwest farmland in March could cost you at the grocery store.
Beef prices at supermarkets could rise 25 to 50 cents per pound and pork as much as $1, estimates Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst at the Price Futures Group in Chicago.
The impact on grains that go into products such as cereal will be more muted; two-and-a-half pennies per product is his forecast. Plus, food manufacturers might choose to swallow the higher cost of those ingredients rather than pass it on to shoppers.
“You’re going to see it on meat prices this summer higher. Cheerios? Not so much,” Flynn said. “If the bad weather continues or the flooding continues, all bets are off.”
However, others say your wallet is safe. American Farm Bureau spokesman William Rodger expects little change in consumer prices for beef and pork and adds that if the number of dead animals is higher than anticipated, the impact would be a “blip,” which he declined to quantify.
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“The human toll, it’s a tragedy,” Rodger said, referring to the billions of dollars in losses farmers and ranchers are dealing with. “But in terms of the pocketbook of the average consumer, I don’t seeing anything that would impact (it).”
Rabobank senior analyst Steve Nicholson agrees consumers will be unscathed.
“The good news in this country is we have a tremendous amount of farmland that’s planted or fed upon, so if we have disaster in the central part of the country, like in the Missouri River basin… we are able to cushion,” he said. “From a consumer point of view, that’s a great thing.”
Either way, it will take about two more months to assess the extent of the damage to some of the country’s most important crop-growing and ranching regions. Farmers need to determine how much harvested grain was destroyed in storage, how many planted acres are salvageable and how many animals died.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Zlati Meyer on Twitter: @ZlatiMeyer