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May 16, 2001   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
May 16, 2001

"MONTGOMERY, Ala." After declining sharply in April, poultry prices rebounded this month, pushing food prices 1 percent higher. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $38.18, up 36 cents from April and up $1.85 from a year ago.

Poultry prices saw the biggest change in May with chicken breasts selling for $1.94 a pound, up 41 cents. That drove the overall cost of poultry 17.4 percent higher. Meanwhile, eggs prices fell 14 cents to 83 cents a dozen. Prices for other meats changed little in May as savings on pork chops and roasts offset higher prices for bacon. Pork chops averaged $2.88 a pound, down 18 cents while bacon was 20 cents higher at $2.86 a pound. In the beef case, chuck roasts were a dime cheaper at $2.33 a pound. T-bone steaks averaged $6.50 a pound, down a penny, and ground beef was 2 cents lower at $1.59 a pound.

On the produce aisle, seasonal savings on Florida and California tomatoes resulted in an overall savings of 3.3 percent. Across the state, tomatoes averaged $1.09 a pound, down 33 cents. Lettuce, however, was a quarter higher at $1.26 a head.

Dairy prices also were up in May with a half-gallon of ice cream selling for $2.89, up 27 cents. Butter was 14 cents higher at $2.79 a pound while milk was 8 cents cheaper at $1.72 for a half-gallon.

Regional reports collected from around the state May 1-7 show the market basket averaged $36.86 in northwest Alabama, $37.91 in the central counties, $38.19 in south Alabama and $39.24 in the northeast corner of the state.

Looking ahead to summer, Dr. Robert Taylor, Alfa's eminent scholar of agricultural economics at Auburn University, said soaring energy costs could have an impact on farmers as well as consumers. According to Taylor, USDA is predicting a 4 percent increase in food prices during the next few months. But, prices should level out by fall, resulting in an annual increase of only 2 percent. Regardless of the increase, Taylor said it's unlikely that farmers will see any change in the prices they get for their products. And with petroleum prices expected to increase by as much as 50 percent, that could spell disaster for Alabama agriculture.

"The cost of petroleum-based energy in Alabama farming is about $75 million, so a 50 percent price increase would have a $37.5 million negative impact on Alabama's net farm income," Taylor said.

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