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Food prices on the rise

Webster, N.Y. -- Local grocers have just started to feel the effects of the drought in California that has driven up food prices across the county.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices rose 0.4 percent in February. Experts predict that number will continue to climb.

The federal government estimated retail food prices will jump as high as 3.5 percent this year, the biggest annual increase in three years.

While thats what is expected for people nationwide, shoppers at some local grocery stores are already dealing with prices three times that much.

Meat prices at Hegedorn's Market in Webster went up 10-15 percent in just one week.

The prices are up astronomically as far as that goes, and were not expecting that to level out at least until summer starts, said Roy McAvoy, manager of Hegedorn's meat department.

Sales representatives from a handful of companies contacted McAvoy Tuesday to notify him of even more price increases.

California is the nations top producer of agriculture products, and the drought there has taken a toll and crops, swelling feed prices for livestock and thinning herds.

The prices went up 60 cents a pound, McAvoy said as he changed the price tags in the meat department.

A 60-cent cost increase for him means customers will pay $1 more per pound for beef.

Its not just my store," McAvoy said. "Everyone is in the same boat."

It's expensive, but thats OK," said shopper Jane Hart. "You've got to buy food to survive."

Out on her weekly trip to the grocery store, Hart said the cost to keep her three kids fed has never been this high.

The price increases have made Hart think more about what she puts in her cart.

We dont spend as much as we used to," she said. "We try to make things last a little bit longer, try to waste less.

Hart said shes has started to cook a little differently, making more meatless meals for her family -- but prices are rising for other types of food as well.

Almost all fresh foods, including meat, dairy and produce, have become more expensive.

The price of oranges at Hegedorns has doubled since last year, and now the grocer is making even less money.

The store has shrunk its profit margins to absorb some of the cost for its customers.

McAvoy said the industry has seen price increases like this before, but theyre rising at a drastic rate.

I dont even think its going to go down," he said. "It might just level off. Its just supply and demand.

While McAvoy said the prices may not come back down, he believes prices will level out in the summer. Until then, he said he expects the cost of groceries to continue to grow.

 
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