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March 24, 2003   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
March 24, 2003

MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- Savings on beef and produce offset higher prices for pork and poultry this month as the average cost of 20 basic market basket items edged one-tenth of 1 percent higher. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the market basket averaged $37.91 in March, up 4 cents from last month but down 43 cents from a year ago.

The arrival of spring brought sharp declines in produce prices. Tomatoes were the best buy at $1.31 a pound, down 32 cents, and red potatoes were down 3 cents to 64 cents a pound. Beef prices also fell this month, due mostly to a 19-cent-per-pound savings on ground beef. Statewide, the versatile refrigerator staple averaged $1.46 a pound--it's lowest price since October.

Meanwhile, pork prices were up in March due, in part, to expanding exports. The National Pork Board reported this month that pork exports increased in 2002 for the 11th straight year. Brian Hardin, director of the Federation's Pork Division, credits producer-funded promotion programs for the increase in demand both in the U.S. and abroad. Nationally, Hardin said expanding exports have meant an extra $3.1 billion in gross income for producers during the past 15 years.

This month, pork chops averaged $3.07 a pound at Alabama supermarkets, up 7 cents from February. Boston butts were 6 cents higher at $1.33 a pound, while bacon was up 2 cents to $2.77 a pound. Poultry prices also were up this month with chicken breasts ringing in at $1.63 a pound, up 13 cents. Whole fryers were up 4 cents to 94 cents a pound, but eggs were 2 cents cheaper at 95 cents a dozen.

In the dairy case, prices were mixed with a half-gallon of milk averaging $1.75 down 4 cents, while butter was up 6 cents to $2.31 a pound. A half-gallon of ice cream was basically unchanged at $3.11, up a penny.

Regional reports collected around the state March 1-8 showed the market basket averaged $36.09 in northwest Alabama, $38.13 in the central counties, $38.70 in the northeast corner of the state and $39.04 in south Alabama.

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