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September 19, 2002   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
September 19, 2002

"MONTGOMERY, Ala." Alabama shoppers didn't have to look hard to find food bargains this month as savings on meat and poultry pushed the state's average food bill six-tenths of 1 percent lower. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $37.24, down 21 cents from August and down $1.42 from a year ago.

For consumers, the lower food prices seem to conflict with reports of drought in many parts of the United States. But according to experts in the Federation's Commodity Division, the drought will not necessarily mean higher food prices--especially in the short term.

"Most of the crops affected by the drought are feed crops like corn and soybeans. That could mean higher feed prices for livestock producers, but there will be a lag of six months to a year before that translates into higher meat costs for consumers," said Federation Beef Director Raleigh Wilkerson. "Right now, retail prices remain low because there are a lot of cattle coming out of the feedlots, and some producers are marketing calves early due to the drought."

This month, beef prices at Alabama supermarkets fell 3.2 percent. T-bone steaks were the best buy at $5.99 a pound, down 32 cents. Ground beef was marginally cheaper at $1.52 a pound, while chuck roasts were up 3 cents to $2.50 a pound. Pork prices also were down for the second month in a row with pork chops averaging $2.92 a pound, down 8 cents. Boston butts were $1.37 a pound, down 14 cents, while bacon edged 14 cents higher to $2.63 a pound. Poultry prices were mixed with chicken breasts falling 14 cents to $1.65 a pound while whole fryers were 3 cents higher at 91 cents a pound. Eggs were a nickel cheaper in September at 82 cents a dozen.

On the produce aisle, higher prices for lettuce offset savings on tomatoes, resulting in an overall increase of 1 percent. Tomatoes prices were down 7 cents at $1.04 a pound; lettuce was up 8 cents at $1.05 a head; and red potatoes were up a penny at 73 cents a pound.

In the dairy case, prices were up for the first time in four months with a half-gallon of ice cream ringing in at $2.90, up 24 cents. Meanwhile, the average price for a half-gallon of milk was basically unchanged at $1.77, as was the price of butter at $2.49 a pound.

Regional reports collected from around the state Sept. 1-8 show the market basket averaged $35.13 in the northwest corner of the state, $36.96 in northeast Alabama, $38.04 in the central counties and $39.76 in south Alabama.

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