General Manager Andy Cavanagh said the company hasn't yet witnessed an increase in the price it pays for its wheat flour, although it has been notified by its supplier to expect higher prices in the near future as the price of wheat continues to rise.
"We have not felt the effects of this yet," Cavanagh said, adding that the price of wheat flour doubled in 2008 when a wheat shortage developed as a result of Midwestern farmers shifting their focus to corn, which at the time was more lucrative.
"It's tough to foresee what the future prices will bring," Cavanagh added, noting that the company currently pays about $29 for 100 pounds of wheat flour.
The fourth generation altar bread manufacturer said that while his company is utilizing its current inventory of wheat flour, he does expect a slight increase in the cost of the next shipment in a few weeks.
"I'm assuming it won't be much of a price difference," he continued. "We pass it on as gently as possible."
Cavanagh added that the company would increase prices by two percent on October 1, which he attributed to rising employee medical insurance and energy costs, and other operational factors, but not because of an increase in the price of wheat flour.
The company currently produces hosts in whole wheat and white varieties and larger celebration breads in whole wheat.
Cavanagh said that the company operates 24 hours a day, and uses 100 pounds of wheat flour every 20 minutes, for a total of 1.9 million pounds a year. The altar breads are distributed to church goods stores and other retailers, such as convents, throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Africa and the Caribbean.
He emphasized that because the company produces altar breads in volume, the cost to retailers should not be significantly higher.
Father David Green, pastor of St. Martha Church, East Providence, said he has witnessed slight periodic increases in the cost of altar breads during the 11 years he has been a pastor.
"It hasn't become prohibitive," he said, noting that the higher prices are in line with the cost of living increases that affect most products.
(Story continues below)
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Tony Prattico, the parish's bookkeeper, said that he purchases celebration hosts directly from Cavanagh. Last month, the cost of a box of 100 of the large celebration hosts was $7.71, an increase of 15 cents from February 2011.
Posted with permission from The Rhode Island Catholic, official newspaper for the Diocese of Providence, R.I.