Watching Commodity Deflation and Inflation

Published on: 11:14AM Dec 17, 2009

The chart of the week is the annual change in November retail prices for beef, pork, chicken and cheese.  The information is taken from the government Consumer Price Index data.  It’s important to keep this data in context.  The Consumer Price Index is a value of retail prices…not wholesale and not necessarily indicative of the appropriate wholesale markets.  Major food service buyers purchase at the wholesale level.  Still, I use the data to get an idea for demand patterns on the particular products.  In this case, you can see that cheese, pork, beef and chicken retail prices were all notably lower this past November than in 2008.  This suggests that movement should pick up for the appropriate items.  Of course, however, we have a challenged demand situation with the strapped US consumer which is probably the major reason for the depreciation in these retail prices.  But is worth noting, that retailers are featuring these items in an attempt to sell more goods which theoretically could lessen the overall wholesale supplies.  Beef and chicken prices were lower during November but still near average levels for the last couple of years which suggests modest additional product movement.  But November retail cheese prices were the lowest in 28 months.  And get this, November retail pork prices were their lowest since May of 2004…that’s over 5 years.  So maybe it’s not so surprising that wholesale pork prices have risen counter seasonally 22% higher since mid November.

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