Food Price Index

I’ve been looking for a standard food price index comparable to the “barrel of oil” or the “gallon of gasoline” we’ve all come to know and love and, more importantly, intuitively grasp. The idea here is a number that’s standardized, readily available and easy to grasp.

The Economist has its Food Price Index, but WTF is a “food price index”? Still, it’s the best I’ve got right now. Is there a standardized “bushel of rice” or “bushel of wheat” or something that shows up on the data pages of the Wall Street Journal every day?

For now – Economist FPI: 264.6, up 4.2 percent from a month ago and 69 percent from a year ago.


  1. John,
    The Consumer Price Index is close to a food price index. If I remember correctly, the CPI is strongly weighted toward food and away from long lasting items such as refrigerators.


  2. I thought the CPI excluded food and fuel because they were relatively volatile and there was generally too much noise in that data?

    The CBOT should have the agricultural commodity data – they do futures and pricing on things like tons of generic rice just like they do on barrels of West-Texas Intermediate-grade crude. Although they might charge you for it. Check I guess.

  3. Eric –

    Verbal is right. The most commonly quoted CPI from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics explicitly excludes food and fuel because the volatility makes the data noisy. The BLS also does a food and fuel number, but it is not the one commonly quoted. But in either case, the index is an attempt to weight all purchasing into a single number, not just food, so it doesn’t meet my needs here.

  4. Common grains (corn, wheat, rice) are commodities, so you should be able to find a commodity price somewhere.

    Australia’s radio national generally broadcasts livestock prices, so their website may have information on that front. But they’d probably only do wheat prices during harvest season, which is oct-dec.

  5. LL –

    Thanks for the suggestion. I followed Verbal’s suggestion and spent some time looking at Chicago Board of Trade data. Indeed, they have commodity prices for food, but it’s a confusing melange of different prices for different time frames, both current and futures.

    That situation does, in fact, exist also in the oil markets but by some sort of tacit agreement we’ve all settled on the “price of a barrel of oil” as a particular type (West Texas crude) in a particular currency (dollars) traded for a particular time frame (I don’t understand this part). So the melange still exists – different types of oil, different time frames – but it’s been distilled down to a standard single number that seems to capture the overall market variability. It’s that sort of measure that I’m looking for.

  6. 69% that’s absolutely rediculous. This is the food equivalent to peak oil. We’ve reached our optimum production level. We can’t afford to deforest any more land for agriculture and the cost of petroleum based fertilizers is driving the food price up. Someone needs to start promoting Liberty Cabbage again. Only this time more for sustainability than a moral boost.

  7. “by some sort of tacit agreement we’ve all settled on the “price of a barrel of oil” as a particular type (West Texas crude) in a particular currency (dollars) traded for a particular time frame (I don’t understand this part).”

    What do you mean, “we”?
    Oil prices reported in Australia are from the Singapore market…

  8. LL – I guess by “we” I meant the usual US-centric thing wherein we just can’t imagine that anyone else thinks and acts differently than us. 🙂

  9. Though, upon a look at a handful of Australian news sites, it looks as though they’re quoting the same thing I am here – light sweet crude, usually denominated in dollars, with the NYMEX price as the standard.

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