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Retail consumer food prices are projected to increase between 0.5% to 1.5% in 2019, according to the latest price forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

If that prediction is correct, 2019 will be the fourth year in a row with deflating or lower-than-average retail food inflation, according to the agency. Food eaten away from home (restaurant or foodservice) is projected to increase between 2% and 3% in 2019, which is consistent with the last several years.

The USDA said that in 2018, retail food prices rose 0.4%. That was the first increase in three years, but the rate was still below the 20-year historical annual average of 2%.

The USDA said the consumer price index for food did not change in April compared with May but was 1.8% above year-ago levels.

Food-away-from-home prices increased by 0.3% in April and were 3.1% above April 2018, according to the agency. 

The agency said food-at-home (grocery or supermarket items) prices fell 0.3% from March to April and are 0.7% higher than last April.

Fresh produce

Fresh fruit retail prices for 2019 are projected to increase between 0.5% and 1.5% in 2019, according to the food price report.

Through April, the report said fresh fruit prices are down 0.3% from April 2018.

The USDA said citrus prices are down compared with a year ago by 2%, due, in part, to an increase in the U.S. citrus crop in 2018-19. On the other hand, tighter domestic supplies for apples boosted prices by 1.3% compared with last April.

Fresh vegetable retail vegetable prices are expected to increase between 2% and 3% in 2019. The USDA said fresh vegetable retail prices in April were 6.4% higher than a year ago. Compared with a year ago, retail prices for potatoes were up 6%, lettuce up 15.9%, tomatoes up 1%, and other fresh vegetables up 6%.

“The price increase for lettuce is the result of a reduced supply following the E. coli outbreak late in 2018,” the USDA food price report said.

The USDA said farm-level fruit prices are projected to decline between 3% and 4% in 2019, while farm-level vegetable prices are expected to increase between 9% and 10%.


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