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"Jeff Helms, Publications Editor"
334 613-4212

MONTGOMERY Grocery prices edged higher at Alabama supermarkets this month as pork and poultry prices rebounded after falling sharply in previous months. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $35.45, up 0.8 percent from February.

Poultry prices surged 7.1 percent higher in March after retreating 11 percent last month. Much of the increase was due to higher prices for chicken breasts, which averaged $1.84 a pound, up 16 cents. Fryers were still a good buy at 89 cents a pound, up 2 cents. Meanwhile, pork prices climbed 8.2 percent after holding steady for two months. Boston butts led the price rally at $1.46 a pound, up 24 cents. Pork chops were 17 cents higher at $2.77 a pound.

The best buy at the meat counter this month was beef, which was down 3.2 percent from February. Ground beef was a nickel cheaper at $1.37 a pound while chuck roast was $2.01 a pound, down 21 cents. Springtime grillers also enjoyed slight savings on T-bone steak, which was $5.81 a pound, down 4 cents.

On the produce aisle, vegetable prices were unchanged despite predictions from the National Weather Service that drought conditions in the Southwest could push prices higher by summer. Fortunately, some Alabama-grown produce should begin appearing at farmers markets and roadside stands by next month, with a bountiful supply available by early June.

At the dairy case, shoppers started to see effects of record-low milk prices this month as prices fell 2.7 percent. While the decrease is a long way from the 38 percent decrease farmers have seen in their milk prices since last year, experts predict supermarket prices will continue to fall in the coming months. For March, shoppers enjoyed the biggest savings on ice cream, which averaged $2.76 a half gallon, down 12 cents. Butter was 11 cents cheaper at $2.22 a pound while milk was $1.75 a half gallon, down 4 cents.

Regional reports collected from around the state March 3-9 showed the market basket total averaged $34.18 in northwest Alabama, $34.80 in south Alabama, $35.28 in central Alabama, and $36.55 in northeast Alabama.

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