MINNEAPOLIS — The drought gripping more than half the country is a major reason why consumers can expect to pay 3 to 4 percent more for groceries next year, the US Department of Agriculture said Wednesday.
Milk, eggs, beef, poultry, and pork prices will all be affected because the drought has pushed up prices for feed, and that will eventually translate into higher prices for steaks, hamburger, pork chops, and chicken.
The good news for cost-conscious consumers is that prices for fruits and vegetables, as well as processed foods, are not affected as much by the drought.
Exactly how much more people might pay for a pound of hamburger, for example, is not known because those prices are affected by lots of factors, including how much of the increase a given supermarket might pass along to the consumer. But beef prices as a whole are expected to see the biggest jump at 4 to 5 percent, the USDA said.
Dairy product prices are forecast to climb 3.5 to 4.5 percent; poultry and egg prices are projected to rise 3 to 4 percent; and pork prices are expected to rise 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2013, the agency said.
‘‘In 2013 as a result of this drought we are looking at above-normal food price inflation, ’’ USDA economist Richard Volpe said.
Normal grocery price inflation is about 2.8 percent a year, Volpe said, so even a 3 percent increase is slightly higher than usual.
The USDA kept its projection for the 2012 food price increase steady at 2.5 to 3.5 percent.