Weather, labor shortages and high demand causing food inflation

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – From beef to poultry, recent spikes in food prices are impacting local businesses.

“I haven’t taken a price increase in my menu in over 6 years so it was a big shock,” said Bob Copoletta, owner of Mary Ann’s Deli and Catering. “All of a sudden I see these prices jump up almost double.”

Multiple factors are making this a perfect storm. The weather itself is one component. Flooding in the South and drought conditions in Brazil and the Midwest are impacting primary regions that produce soft commodities.

“It’s a major determinant particularly a crop side,” said Agricultural Economist Scott Irwin. “Good-weather livestock producers have lower feed costs and input costs, and bad weather you depend to get higher costs.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, grain that feeds livestock is strained in global production. This is due to harsh growing conditions, and the slowdown causes a ripple effect, ultimately impacting the prices of mean.

Current weather conditions are very important for corn and soybean crops in the United States. If the harsh weather conditions continue, we’ll potentially see higher prices during harvest season.

If there is a strain, livestock farmers must therefore increase the prices of meat to offset the costs of the feed.

The combination of weather conditions and labor shortages from the pandemic is the main cause for the recent price spikes. In 2018, the swine disease that hit China has the country now importing 40 percent more meat, according to Irwin. That initially sparked a higher global demand for meat, an issue that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The USDA predicts another 2 percent increase in meat prices by the end of 2021.

“I expect within 6-12 months that these pressures will ease,” Scott said.

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