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NDSU Extension Assessing Food, Gas Price Trends

NDSU Extension has launched the North Dakota Consumer Price Survey.

Food, gas and housing prices are impacting consumers across North Dakota.

The North Dakota State University Extension Service has begun a 16-month effort to assess those impacts. Extension’s family economics program team developed the North Dakota Consumer Price Survey to determine trends in food and gas prices by region, community and business size.

“This survey is not intended to be a comprehensive study but a snapshot of prices for a small basket of common food items that can easily be found in most stores selling food,” Extension family economics specialist Debra Pankow says.

Extension agents throughout the state plan to collect prices for a specific list of items at their local grocery stores and supermarkets during the first two weeks of each month. The items are everyday products such as milk, eggs, bread, cereal, coffee and peanut butter. The agents also survey gas prices.

In the initial survey in September, they found that the total cost of the food on their list ranged from $33.09 to $50.36, with consumers in the oil-impacted counties paying more than those in the rest of the state. The average cost of this package of food was $42.24 in the oil-impacted counties, compared with $40.69 elsewhere.

“The size of the community may have an impact on the price of milk,” says Ward County Extension agent Lori Scharmer. “In our smallest communities, the average price of a gallon of 2 percent milk is $5.68, with the highest price being $6.65. In our largest communities, the average price was $4.02, with the lowest price $3.25.”

Where the products are sold also seems to make a difference. The package of food cost an average of $43.67 at smaller, local grocery stores, while it cost an average of $39.28 at large supermarkets.

Some products had wide price variations. For example, a 14-ounce box of Cheerios ranged from $2.69 to $6.99. The high price was at a local grocery story and the low price was at a national chain store.

Gas prices also varied. The cost of a gallon of regular gas ranged from $3.65 to $4.14.

The agents gathered prices from 60 stores in 37 counties.

Pankow says those involved in the monthly survey are anxious to see how North Dakota prices compare with the Consumer Price Index, one of the most widely reported measures of inflation.

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) in the Midwest rose 0.3 percent in September, following a 0.7 percent advance in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Higher prices for motor fuel, up 2.7 percent, had the greatest impact on the index.

Overall, energy costs rose 1.6 percent during September, while food prices edged down 0.1 percent and the index for all items less food and energy was 0.2 percent higher.

From September 2011 to September 2012, the CPI-U for the Midwest rose 1.9 percent. The energy index, which includes motor fuel and household fuels, was up 2.2 percent, and food prices advanced 1.2 percent. Excluding food and energy, the CPI-U increased 2 percent during the year.

The North Dakota Consumer Price Survey will continue through 2013.

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Oct. 25, 2012

Source:Debra Pankow, (701) 231-8593, debra.pankow@ndsu.edu
Source:Lori Scharmer, (701) 857-6450, lori.scharmer@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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