FOOD PRICES FALL AS FUEL COSTS SOAR
MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- Alabama food prices fell 3 percent this month, giving consumers some relief from skyrocketing fuel prices. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $37.87 in February, down $1.34 from last month but up 88 cents from a year ago. Meanwhile, the Consumer Price Index for the month was up three-tenths of 1 percent, largely due to a 6.6 percent increase in the cost of petroleum-based energy.
In the meat case, pork and poultry prices showed the biggest declines while beef prices were mixed. Across the state, pork chops averaged $3 a pound, down 9 cents from January. Bacon was 16 cents cheaper at $2.75 a pound, and Boston butts fell 12 cents to $1.27 a pound. Increased foreign competition and tightening export markets continued to put downward pressure on poultry prices this month with chicken breasts dropping 23 cents to $1.50 a pound. T-bone steaks also were cheaper at $6.30 a pound, down 28 cents, while ground beef edged 14 cents higher to $1.65 a pound.
On the produce aisle, prices stabilized after sharp increases during December and January. Tomatoes averaged $1.63, down 17 cents, while lettuce was 12 cents cheaper at 92 cents a head. Red potatoes remained a good buy at 67 cents a pound, down 4 cents, and sweet potatoes dropped 2 cents to 67 cents a pound.
Dairy prices retreated as well with butter averaging $2.25 a pound, down 15 cents. Ice cream was a nickel cheaper at $3.10 for a half-gallon, but milk was up 3 cents to $1.79 for a half-gallon. Eggs also were 3 cents higher at 97 cents a dozen.
Regional reports collected around the state Feb. 1-7 showed the market basket averaged $35.60 in northwest Alabama, $37.89 in the northeast corner of the state, $37.91 in the central counties and $40.60 in south Alabama.