Wheat and wheat flour prices surge, while prices remain stable for bread, cereal, and bakery products
Wheat prices at the farm level rose substantially in 2021, but these changes did not result in correspondingly higher prices for consumer products made from wheat. This disparity reflects the historical pattern most observable from 2005–12, wherein the degree of movement in prices of wheat products was markedly less than the more dramatic changes in wheat prices. Cash wheat prices in Kansas City, MO—the market price that most closely reflects the prices mills pay for wheat—were up by more than 30 percent in 2021 from the same time in 2020. Similarly, the Producer Price Index (PPI) for flour milling—a measure of how wholesale flour prices change over time—also rose, registering an 18-percent year-on-year increase in 2021. In contrast, prices U.S. consumers paid for wheat-containing products, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), for cereal and bakery products, is projected up 2 percent. This year-to-year increase is below the overall inflation rate for 2021 and similar to the previous year’s gains. The muted and lagged impact of the wheat grain price surge on consumer product prices is in line with historical precedent in which commodity prices usually represent a small share of the consumer food dollar that is spent on processed foods such as bread and pasta. This chart was drawn from “The Effect of Rising Wheat Prices on U.S. Retail Food Prices,” which appeared in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s November 2021 Wheat Outlook.
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