By Ros Krasny
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Overall U.S. food inflation will remain near the historic norm in 2014, even as prices for meat and seafood are pushed higher by disease and widespread drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Friday.
USDA said wholesale pork prices will jump by 10 percent to 11 percent in 2014, hurt by declining supplies after a virus has killed millions of piglets in the past year.
Wholesale beef prices, meanwhile, are forecast to jump by 8 percent to 9 percent on the year.
Food inflation, which includes items bought in grocery stores as well as in restaurants, will rise by 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent this year and subside to 2 percent to 3 percent in 2015, the USDA said in its first forecast for the new year.
The agency noted a recent jump in vegetable prices but said it was too soon to tie the move to the severe drought in California, the largest U.S. grower of fruits and vegetables.
"The ongoing drought in California could potentially have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy, and egg prices, and drought conditions in Texas and Oklahoma could drive beef prices up even further," the USDA said.
The latest weekly drought monitor from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows much of California in an extreme or exceptional drought, the two most severe categories. Pockets of Texas are also in exceptional drought.
U.S. fish and seafood prices were forecast to rise by 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent this year, up from last month's forecast of a 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent gain.
"In general, fish and seafood prices have been climbing due to decreased supplies of certain species and increased consumer demand, as other meats have become more expensive," the USDA said.
(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Bill Trott)