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"Jeff Helms, Publications Director"
334 613-4212

MONTGOMERY More than the mercury is rising across Alabama as summer descends on the state. Food prices also are climbing as record-setting temperatures hamper agricultural production. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $36.64, up 2 percent from June.

Raleigh Wilkerson, director of the Federation's Beef Division, said drought and extreme heat are especially hard on livestock and milk producers.

"When it's as hot as it's been for the last month, chickens and livestock don't eat as much, so they aren't as productive," Wilkerson said. "Cows are just like most of us; they would rather stay in the shade and conserve their energy."

While Alabama farmers are struggling with the effects of the drought, Wilkerson said the drought should have a minimal impact on food prices. Instead, he credits increased demand and surging exports for recent increases in meat and poultry prices.

This month, prices were higher for beef, pork, poultry, eggs and dairy products at Alabama supermarkets. At the meat counter, beef prices were 2.5 percent higher with chuck roasts selling for $2.19 a pound, up 21 cents. Ground beef was slightly higher at $1.39 a pound. Meanwhile, an 11-cent-per-pound increase in the price of Boston butts pushed pork prices 1.7 percent higher, and poultry prices climbed 3 percent as fryers jumped to 91 cents a pound, up 7 cents. The average cost of a dozen eggs was 78 cents, up 11 cents from June.

Prices at the dairy case also were up 3.8 percent this month after holding steady in June. Ice cream led the price rally with a half-gallon of the summertime favorite selling for $2.77, up 16 cents. Butter also was 7 percent higher at $2.23 a pound.

The drought, however, did not seem to affect fruit and vegetable prices this month as an ample supply of produce from other states helped to offset local crop losses. Lettuce was the best buy at $1 a head, down 11 cents, and red potatoes were 56 cents a pound, down 9 cents. Overall, produce prices at Alabama supermarkets were down 4.5 percent.

Regional reports collected from around the state July 2 -- 7 showed the market basket total averaged $36.33 in northwest Alabama, $36.54 in northeast Alabama, $36.54 in central Alabama, and $37.19 in south Alabama.

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