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January 16, 2003   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
January 16, 2003

Montgomery, Ala. Decreased supplies of beef, pork and poultry led to higher prices in January, which pushed Alabama food bills 2.7 percent higher. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $39.21 in January, up $1.04 from last month and up $1.54 from a year ago.

At the meat case, pork products were 3 percent higher with pork chops ringing in at $3.09 a pound, up 15 cents. Bacon was 9 cents higher at $2.91 a pound, while Boston butts edged 3 cents higher to $1.39 a pound. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expecting pork production to decrease by about 2 percent this year, which could result in an overall increase in retail pork prices of about 1 percent.

Meanwhile, severe winter weather in the West and Midwest has slowed beef production. That contributed to a 1.4 percent increase in beef prices this month. At Alabama supermarkets, T-bone steaks averaged $6.58, up 28 cents, but ground beef prices were down 7 cents to $1.51 a pound.

Poultry prices also edged higher in January as both Russia and Mexico considered limiting their imports of U.S. chicken. Overall, prices were up 2.3 percent, due mostly to a 9-cent jump in the price of chicken breasts, which averaged $1.73 a pound. Eggs, however, were 6 cents cheaper at 94 cents a dozen.

On the produce aisle, prices continued to climb as winter weather reduced the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. Tomato prices soared to $1.80 a pound, up 20 cents, while lettuce was a dime higher at $1.04 a head. Sweet potatoes were up 7 cents to 69 cents a pound, but red potatoes were still at good buy at 71 cents a pound, down 2 cents.

Prices of dairy products were mixed with a half-gallon of milk averaging $1.76, down 2 cents, while butter was 18 cents more expensive at $2.40 a pound.

Regional reports collected at supermarkets around the state Jan. 2-9 showed the market basket averaged $37.12 in northwest Alabama, $38.34 in the central counties, $39.86 in the northeast corner of the state, and $41.06 in south Alabama.

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