当前位置: 首页 » 专业英语 » 行业相关 » 正文


放大字体  缩小字体 发布日期:2008-12-08  浏览次数:851
核心提示:For more than a year, food manufacturers have been shaving package sizes and raising prices, declaring that they had little choice because of unprecedented increases in the cost of raw ingredients like corn, soybeans and wheat. Now, with the price o

    For more than a year, food manufacturers have been shaving package sizes and raising prices, declaring that they had little choice because of unprecedented increases in the cost of raw ingredients like corn, soybeans and wheat.

    Now, with the price of grains and other commodities plunging, it may seem logical that grocery prices will follow. But while prices for some items like milk and fresh produce are dropping, those of most packaged items and meat are holding firm or even increasing. Experts warn that consumers should not expect lower prices anytime soon on most items at the grocery store or in restaurants.

    Government and industry economists project that the overall cost of food will continue to climb in 2009, led by increases for meat and poultry. A big reason, they say, is that food companies still have not caught up with the prolonged run-up in commodity prices, which remain above historical averages despite coming down from their highs early this year.

    The Agriculture Department is forecasting that food prices will increase 3.5 to 4.5 percent in 2009, compared with an estimated 5 to 6 percent increase by the end of this year.

    Some economists project even steeper increases next year. For instance, Bill Lapp, principal at Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, said he expected food prices to jump 7 to 9 percent next year.

    “For the last 21 months, food manufacturers, restaurants and livestock producers have been absorbing significant costs that in my view are likely to be passed on to consumers in 2009 and beyond,” said Mr. Lapp, a former chief economist at ConAgra Foods.

    While predicting future food prices is an inexact science, data released by the Labor Department last week suggested the forecasters might be right.

    Overall consumer prices recorded the biggest drop in the history of the Consumer Price Index, but food prices continued to inch upward, albeit at a slower pace than in previous months. The C.P.I. showed that grocery prices rose 0.1 percent in October.

    Some of the more visible items on grocery shelves, including produce and dairy products, dropped sharply in recent weeks, but not enough to offset the general trend of rising prices. Restaurant prices rose 0.5 percent in October.

    Commodity prices began climbing rapidly in the fall of 2007, and food companies were hit hard by the increases. They tried to slow eroding profit margins by cutting operating costs, making packages smaller and raising prices.

    Some companies, like Kellogg and Heinz, have managed to offset the higher ingredient costs and post robust profits by using shrewd commodity hedges and by raising prices without losing many customers. They also benefited from a trend of consumers eating out less and buying more groceries.

    But other food companies have struggled. Hershey, for instance, locked in high cocoa prices this year only to see prices drop this fall, analysts say. And meat and poultry companies have been hit by higher feed costs and a limited ability to charge higher prices, at least in the short term.

    Now, even though costs for ingredients like corn and wheat have dropped, meat and poultry providers say they still have not raised prices enough to cover their increased costs. And packaged food manufacturers are unlikely to lower prices because commodity costs remain relatively high and they are still trying to rebuild eroded margins.

    Michael Mitchell, a spokesman for Kraft Foods, said that the company’s food ingredient costs this year were running $2 billion higher than in 2007, a 13 percent increase, but that the company had raised its overall prices by only 7 percent.

    William P. Roenigk, senior vice president and chief economist for the National Chicken Council, said his industry had been losing money for more than a year. Chicken producers are now trying to recover those costs by reducing production, which will eventually alter the balance between supply and demand. “The time is coming when we’re going to see a very significant increase in the retail price of chicken,” he said.

    The restaurant industry, which has been battered by a sharp drop in customers, also says it has not been able to raise prices enough to keep pace with the cost of ingredients.

    People in the restaurant business said they did not like raising prices during an economic downturn. “If anything in this environment, one would be looking at the ability to offer much greater emphasis on value pricing in restaurant menus,” said Hudson Riehle, chief economist of the National Restaurant Association. “In contrast, exactly the opposite is happening. Our operators are being forced to raise menu prices at the highest rate since 1990.”

    Predictions about food prices are subject to change because commodity prices are unpredictable. Ephraim Leibtag, an economist for the Agriculture Department, said food inflation would slow by the middle of next year if commodity prices remained low. “Right now the forecast is about 4 percent, but that would be lowered if we do not see any surge in commodity costs over the next few months,” he said.

    A reason that overall food prices are expected to continue increasing is the lag between price increases for basic commodities and for finished food products in the grocery store, particularly for meat and processed foods. Consider the price of corn, an ingredient in things like cereal and breaded shrimp. It was not too long ago that corn hovered around $2 or $3 a bushel.

    But corn prices began climbing last fall and peaked around $8 a bushel in June. They have since dropped to about $3.50 a bushel, still above the historical norm. Some food manufacturers locked in prices for corn and other commodities in the spring and summer, fearing that prices could go even higher. But prices fell instead, and they are now stuck with the higher prices until their contracts expire.

    When costs go up for livestock producers, they are often unable to immediately raise prices because those prices are set on the open market, which is dictated by supply and demand. Instead, they begin reducing the size of their herds or flocks, which eventually leads to less meat on the market and higher prices. But reducing livestock production can take months to years, and in the interim it can actually suppress prices as breeding animals are slaughtered to reduce production.

    The prospect of more food inflation is inflaming a debate over its causes. Many food manufacturers and economists maintain that one culprit is government policies promoting the use of ethanol fuel made from corn.

    About a third of the corn crop is used for ethanol, putting ethanol producers in competition with livestock farmers and food manufacturers. The result, they contend, is that prices for corn are now higher and more volatile.

    “The connection of oil prices to agricultural commodities is new as of 2007, and it’s a major game changer for those in the food production business,” said Thomas E. Elam, president of FarmEcon, a consulting firm.

    But ethanol advocates counter that the food industry’s arguments have been proved false, saying that corn prices have declined as ethanol production is increasing. Matt Hartwig, spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry group, said food companies were “very quick to tell the American public that they had to raise food prices because corn was so expensive, and that the reason corn was so expensive was corn-based ethanol.”

    Mr. Hartwig added: “Now, clearly, we know that relationship doesn’t exist. If ethanol isn’t the reason, what is the real reason for food prices going up?”





    还有一些经济学家预测,明年上涨的幅度甚至更大。比如,Bill Lapp,奥马哈高级经济研究所的负责人就说,他预计明年食品价格会上升7-9%。

    还有一些经济学家预测,明年上涨的幅度甚至更大。比如,Bill Lapp,奥马哈高级经济研究所的负责人就说,他预计明年食品价格会上升7-9%。








    卡夫食品发言人Michael Mitchell称,该公司食品配料成本今年比2007年多花了20亿美元,增加了13%,但公司全部商品价格只提高了7%。

    William P. Roenigk,全国鸡肉理事会的高级副会长和首席经济学家反映,他的工厂亏损已一年多了。鸡肉生产商现在正试图通过减产来弥补成本费用,这将最终改变供需平衡。“我们将看到鸡肉零售价猛升的时刻正在到来。”他说。


    餐饮行业人士说他们也不愿意在经济低迷时期拉高价格。“如果这种环境下能做什么的话,那一定是着眼于大力强调餐厅菜单价值定价的能力。”美国国家餐馆协会首席经济学家Hudson Riehle说。“相反,现在发生的情况却恰恰相反。我们的经营者正被迫进行自1990年以来最大幅度的提价。”

    预言食品价格将改变是因为物价不可预知。Ephraim Leibtag,农业部门的一位经济学家说,如果物价维持在低水平的话,食品通胀到明年年中会减缓。“现在预测为大约4%,但假如往后几个月看不到物价飙升,那有可能会低一点。”







    但乙醇拥护者反击,食品工业的争论是错误的,他们说,当乙醇生产加大时谷物价格却在跌落。Matt Hartwig,可再生燃料协会乙醇工业群体的发言人说,食品公司“很快会告诉美国民众,他们不得不加价是因为谷物是如此昂贵,谷物如此昂贵的原因就在于基于谷物而生产的乙醇。”


关键词: 食品 价格
[ 网刊订阅 ]  [ 专业英语搜索 ]  [ ]  [ 告诉好友 ]  [ 打印本文 ]  [ 关闭窗口 ] [ 返回顶部 ]

0条 [查看全部]  相关评论