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April 16, 2002   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
April 16, 2002

"MONTGOMERY, Ala" Alabama shoppers paid 3.3 percent more for groceries in April despite savings on poultry products. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $39.60, up $1.26 from March and up $1.78 from a year ago.

Skyrocketing lettuce prices and more costly beef contributed to the increase in Alabama food bills. On the produce aisle, unusually cold weather in California and Arizona pushed the average price of lettuce to $2.49 a head--a 50 percent increase from last month's already inflated prices. Red potatoes and tomatoes were slightly more expensive at 64 cents a pound and $1.29 a pound, respectively.

At the meat counter, beef prices were up 4.5 percent after climbing more than 8 percent in March. Beef industry officials say the development of easy-to-prepare beef dishes has contributed to the increase in demand and prices. This month, T-bone steaks averaged $6.48 a pound, up 28 cents, and chuck roasts were up 9 cents at $2.38 a pound. Ground beef averaged $1.63 a pound, up 8 cents.

Meanwhile, pork prices fell only slightly this month despite sharp declines in hog prices at the farm gate. Brian Hardin, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation's pork division, said producers are receiving about 40 percent less for their hogs than this time last year. If that trend continues, he expects shoppers to see lower prices at the grocery store in the coming months. According to the food price survey, pork chops averaged $2.93 in April, down 15 cents, while bacon edged 6 cents higher at $2.80 a pound.

The best buy for Alabama shoppers this month, however, was chicken. Prices dropped almost 10 percent following the announcement that Russia had banned all imports of U.S.-grown poultry. The biggest savings was on chicken breasts, which averaged $1.59, down 27 cents. The Russian ban has since been lifted, and experts predict prices will rebound.

In the dairy case, prices were up slightly in April with a half-gallon of milk ringing in at $1.82, up 2 cents. Ice cream averaged $3.06 a half-gallon, up 19 cents, while butter was 2 cents cheaper at $2.60 a pound. Eggs prices bounced back, after declining sharply in March, to 96 cents a dozen, up 11 cents.

Regional reports collected at supermarkets around the state April 1-7 showed the market basket averaged $38.12 in northwest Alabama, $39.66 in the central counties, $39.76 in the northeast corner of the state, and $41.15 in south Alabama.

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