COLUMBIA – Santa’s treats are more affordable this year.
The price of most food, including cookies and milk, is down in Columbia stores, and holiday specials are not the only reason for the decrease.
The cost of food has seen a marked increase during the past year, but with gas prices dropping, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.
“Since energy prices have moderated, it’s taken pressure off rising food prices,” said Matt Boatright, deputy director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
The ingredients for a batch of sugar cookies, on average, cost $11.44 today. The same flour, eggs, butter and sugar would have cost $12.37 in December 2007, according to research by the Missouri Farm Bureau.
The price of milk is down about 50 cents from the statewide average last year. A 4-pound bag of sugar is 10 cents cheaper in Columbia supermarkets than this time last year. A pound of butter costs about $2.38, down 40 cents.
Flour is the only ingredient to show an increase, from an average of $1.87 statewide last year to $2.29 today.
A number of factors play a role in food prices, including agricultural production, transportation costs and international trade issues.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released data Dec. 16 showing that food prices actually went up 0.2 percent in November, yet this number indicates a slowdown for price increases for the year.
Overall, there has been a 6 percent jump in food prices this year, with the peak following gas prices in July that nearly hit $4 a gallon on average. Wednesday's average gas price in Missouri was $1.45.
Despite the 0.2 percent increase in food costs last month, the rate of price increases is declining, said Steve Reed, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“That 0.2 percent increase is actually the smallest we’ve seen since March,” he said.