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"Jeff Helms, Publications Director"
334 613-4212

MONTGOMERY Savings on beef and produce helped keep Alabama food prices low this month despite worsening drought conditions across the Southeast. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $35.94, down 1.1 percent from May.

Dr. Lavaughn Johnson, head of Auburn University's Department of Agricultural Economics, said he does not expect to see dramatic increases in food prices as a result of the dry weather.

"The drought is creating a serious situation for farmers and rural communities, but it will not have a tremendous impact on the prices consumers pay at the supermarket," Johnson said. "The localized nature of the drought and the fact that raw commodities account for only about 23 percent of the American food dollar will minimize its effect on food prices."

For June, beef prices at Alabama supermarkets were 4 percent lower with T-bone steak averaging $6.12 a pound, down 12 cents. Ground beef also was 12 cents a pound cheaper at $1.38. Meanwhile, strong consumer demand for pork pushed prices 2.1 percent higher with pork chops bringing $2.90 a pound, up 18 cents. Poultry prices also climbed 4 percent higher as the cost of chicken breasts increased from $1.64 a pound in May to $1.81.

On the produce aisle, an abundant supply of vegetables from the western United States helped drive prices 1.1 percent lower. Tomatoes were the best buy at 99 cents a pound, down 12 cents. As for Alabama-grown produce, Nick Zorn, manager of the Alabama State Farmers Market in Montgomery, said the drought has delayed harvest of some crops by as much as two weeks. Prices at the market, however, are comparable to last year, and farmers are bringing in an assortment of fresh vegetables that were grown using irrigation, he added.

Shoppers looking to beat the heat with a refreshing treat from the dairy case found prices unchanged from a month ago. A half gallon of ice cream averaged $2.61 at Alabama grocery stores while milk was $1.77 a half gallon. Eggs were 12.7 percent cheaper at 69 cents a dozen.

Regional reports collected from around the state May 30 -- June 4 showed the market basket total averaged $34.17 in northwest Alabama, $36.05 in south Alabama, $36.17 in central Alabama, and $37.12 in northeast Alabama.

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