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"J. Paul Till, Director, Information Department"
334 613-4313

MONTGOMERY Aisle-to-aisle savings in Alabama supermarkets this month pushed consumers' overall grocery bills down 3 percent from January, the Alabama Farmers Federation's February food price survey shows.

According to the survey, which was conducted Feb. 7-14 in grocery stores across the state, the cost of 20 typical market basket items was averaging $34.86, down $1.18 from the January average.

An 18 percent plunge in produce prices led the list of savings, but those good produce buys that shoppers enjoyed during the survey period soon will be history. Heavy El Nino rains in California and Florida--the major suppliers of produce to Alabama this time of year--are taking a tremendous toll on vegetable crops. Wholesalers were reporting price jumps on most produce items last week; higher prices at the retail level are bound to follow.

Meanwhile, strong supplies of beef, pork and poultry continue to translate into substantial savings for shoppers. Retail pork and poultry prices, which were down significantly in January's survey, continued that trend in this month's survey, with each dropping another 2 percent. Beef, which held steady last month, was down 3 percent in the latest survey.

Comparing prices now with a year ago, Alabama consumers are paying 6.7 percent less for beef, 5.4 percent less for poultry and about 6.1 percent less for pork. Unfortunately, though, those lower retail prices reflect serious and prolonged price slumps for farmers. In pork, for example, retail pork prices may be down 6.1 percent from a year ago, but pork producers are getting 32.7 percent less for hogs than they were this time last year.

As for other items in the February market basket survey, egg prices were down 5 percent from January, and the cost of dairy products was averaging 1 percent less. Regional data from around the state show the February market basket averaged $34.05 in northwest Alabama, $34.39 in south Alabama, $34.42 in central Alabama and $36.37 in the northeastern portion of the state.

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