"LOWER PRODUCE, MEAT PRICES LEAD DECLINE IN APRIL FOR LESS"
MONTGOMERY Retreating produce prices and lower meat costs led a 3.8 percent decline in consumers' overall grocery bills this month, according to the Alabama Farmers Federation April food price survey.
The survey shows the cost of 20 basic market basket items averaging $34.02 statewide, down $1.28 from the March average and down $2.21 or 6.5 percent from a year ago.
After a 12.6 percent jump in produce prices last month, April shoppers got a reprieve as vegetable prices normalized, falling 11.8 percent. Nationally, produce prices rose 5.5 percent in March as heavy El Nino rains flooded fields in California and Florida.
Meanwhile, the Asian financial crisis and a strong U.S. dollar continue to reduce meat and poultry exports and increase imports. With commercial beef production set to fall less than 1 percent in 1998 and a 10 percent increase expected in pork production, large meat supplies are exerting downward pressure on U.S. livestock and poultry prices. As a result, farmers are earning about $3.60 less per 100 pounds of beef than a year ago and $14.20 less per 100 pounds of pork. For consumers, this meant a 5.6 percent drop in April beef prices, 2.8 percent lower pork prices and a 3.2 percent decrease in poultry prices.
Prices were also 2.5 percent lower at the dairy case this month. In fact, the Easter bunny may have been the only shopper to have a higher April grocery bill. Egg prices rose sharply, averaging 99 cents per dozen or 12.1 percent more than a month ago.
April food price survey results from around the state show the market basket averaged $33.25 in northwest Alabama, $33.36 in central Alabama, $34 in south Alabama and $34.88 in northeast Alabama.