GROCERY PRICES RINGING UP FOR LESS
MONTGOMERY Alabama consumers are starting out the new year with lower grocery bills, thanks largely to good buys in their supermarket meat departments.
The Alabama Farmers Federation's first food cost survey of 1998 shows January grocery prices are down four-tenths of 1 percent from December, with the cost of 20 typical market basket items averaging $36.04 statewide. That's down 13 cents from December's average.
At the meat case, retail pork prices are down 3.4 percent from December, and chicken is costing 4.7 percent less. Beef prices, meanwhile, are averaging the same this month as last.
The lower pork and poultry prices reflect strong supply situations that are expected to continue through 1998 and, subsequently, keep retail costs down. Beef supplies are tightening some, but a beef industry reprot issued last week prdicted that the cost of beef at the retail level will remain relatively steady this year, as beef strives to compete with lower pork and poultry prices in the battle for consumers' food dollars.
The savings consumers are enjoying on pork and poultry this month are being offset, however, by higher prices on other market basket basics, including produce, which is posting a 7.1 percent seasonal increase, and dairy products, up 1.5 percent from December.
Regional survey results from around the state show the January market basket averaged $34.86 in northwest Alabama, $35.84 in central Alabama, $36.40 in south Alabama and $37.01 in northeast Alabama.