GROCERY BILLS FALL AS TOMATO PRICES STABILIZE
MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- Falling tomato prices led to an overall decrease of 1 percent in the average cost of 20 basic market basket items this month, despite higher prices for meat and dairy products. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the market basket averaged $44.73 in January, down 38 cents from last month.
|After skyrocketing in November and December, tomato prices stabilized in January as Florida growers began picking their winter crop.|
On the produce aisle, tomatoes averaged $1.75 this month, down $1.49 from December. Skyrocketing tomato prices skewed the market basket total in November and December following Hurricane Ivan, which destroyed much of Florida's fall crop. Poor growing conditions in Mexico and western states compounded the tomato shortage. This month, however, prices stabilized as farmers in those areas began harvesting winter tomatoes. Prices also were good for red potatoes, which averaged 51 cents a pound, down 8 cents, but lettuce was up 16 cents a head to $1.17. Sweet potatoes averaged 80 cents a pound, a 4-cent increase.
At the meat counter, strong demand for pork, both in the United States and abroad, continued to put upward pressure on retail prices. At Alabama supermarkets, pork chops averaged $3.48 a pound, up 41 cents, and bacon was a nickel higher at $3.23 a pound. Boston butts were slightly more expensive at $1.73 a pound, up 3 cents. Meanwhile, reports about a Canadian cow being diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy did little to curb the strong demand for beef. T-bone steaks averaged $8.04 a pound in January, up 25 cents, and ground beef was up a penny to $2.01 a pound. But shoppers still found bargains on meat and poultry, as chuck roasts fell 18 cents to $2.82 a pound, and whole fryers were down 1 cent to $1.01 a pound. Chicken breasts remained a popular choice for on-the-go families, averaging $2.24 a pound, up 6 cents, while eggs were down a penny at 97 cents a dozen.
In the dairy case, prices were up for the first time in four months with a half-gallon of ice cream ringing in at $3.01, up 12 cents. Butter also was more expensive at $3.35 a pound, up 7 cents, but milk prices remained unchanged at $2.01 for a half-gallon.
Regional reports submitted by volunteer shoppers around the state Jan. 1-8 showed the market basket averaged $42.34 in northwest Alabama, $44.48 in the central counties, $45.43 in the northeast corner of the state and $46.39 in south Alabama.