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U.S. grocery prices up 2.6%; eggs see largest spike

A shopper looks for food near an empty refrigerated section at a grocery store in San Francisco, Calif., on March 16. Many stores temporarily ran out of supplies due to the coronavirus health crisis. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
A shopper looks for food near an empty refrigerated section at a grocery store in San Francisco, Calif., on March 16. Many stores temporarily ran out of supplies due to the coronavirus health crisis. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

May 13 (UPI) -- Grocery prices in the United States increased by 2.6 percent in April -- with the largest spike, 16.1 percent, in the cost of eggs -- the Labor Department said in its monthly consumer price report.

The report, released Tuesday, said food prices saw their largest one-month increase since February 1974 during the oil crisis.

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April's spike was led by higher costs for meat and eggs, which collectively saw a 4.3 percent increase. Breakfast cereal and baked goods saw a 2.9 percent increase, and fruits and vegetables inched up 1.5 percent, the report said.

The greatest increase came for eggs, which have seen high demand as consumers stocked up on groceries at home during the coronavirus pandemic. States' stay-at-home orders shuttered most dine-in restaurants and forced more Americans to eat at home.

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Panic buying of eggs in late March left some grocery stores bare, with some producers experiencing a 200 percent to 300 percent increase in orders.

John Brunnquell, CEO of Egg Innovations, told UPI last month, "it effectively wiped out all the eggs in the nation."

Many producers planned to add more hens to greater egg-laying capacity, Marc Dresner, a spokesman for the American Egg Board said in April. But that process can take several months before a hen is mature enough to lay.

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Overall, the food at home price index increased 4.1 percent over the past 12 months, while the index for food purchased away from home -- restaurants -- rose 0.1 percent in the same time period.

The demand on grocery purchases may begin to ease in the coming months as several states move to reopen more businesses, including restaurant dining rooms.

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