Price check

A wicked combination of bad weather and rising fuel prices will have you paying more for many items at the grocery store.

Wholesale food prices rose 3.9 percent in February over January — the highest monthly jump in 37 years, the Department of Labor reported last week. Cold spells have driven up produce and wheat prices, while surging gas prices make transporting food more expensive.

In a survey of popular grocery stores around Snohomish County last week, The Herald found that consumers can expect to pay an average of $30.51 for just seven basic foods: milk, bread, peanut butter, bagged lettuce, coffee, beef and apples.

Coffee

Starbucks Corp. said this week that it’s raising the price for coffee sold to stores by up to 12 percent to cope with higher costs for beans. The Seattle-based company is following similar moves by J.M. Smucker Co., which sells the Dunkin’ Donuts and Folgers brands, as well as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Around Snohomish County, the price of a pound of Millstone coffee averaged $9.32.

The global supply of coffee dropped last year and growers in countries like Brazil and Vietnam have been holding on to supplies, hoping to get higher prices, said Spencer Patton, chief investment officer for hedge fund Steel Vine Investments.

Wheat

Dry conditions have created problems for the winter wheat crop in the Great Plains. And Russia, one of the largest exporters of wheat, cut its forecast for wheat production this week.

A loaf of bread around Snohomish County last week came in at $4.21 on average. That’s up 18 percent from what a loaf of bread cost in the county in 2007, the last time the Herald did a grocery survey.

General Mills, the maker of Cheerios and Nature Valley snack bars, said this week that it raised prices in several product categories, including flour, in January and plans to raise prices of other products in the near future.

Produce

Vegetable prices shot up last month after cold weather in the southern U.S. and Mexico destroyed much of the winter vegetable supply, the Commerce Department said. Costs should be coming down soon, though, as farmers planted after the winter freezes start to reach stores, said Jody Shee, an analyst for the market research firm Mintel.

Locally, a bag of spring mix lettuce sold for as low as $2.78 and as high as $3.49 this week.

The price of orange juice is going up after cold temperatures put a damper on Florida’s citrus crop. PepsiCo said it was raising prices for Tropicana juices by as much as 8 percent, after record cold temperatures chilled this season’s citrus crop in Florida. Rival Coca-Cola Co. had already raised prices on its Minute Maid line.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

What do you see at the store?

Snohomish County shoppers: This is the first in what will be a monthly look at grocery prices in the county. We’ll provide you with shopping tips and bargains more frequently online. Spot a good deal or have advice for other shoppers? Send an email to benbow@heraldnet.com.

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