REBOUNDING PRICES PUSH GROCERY BILLS HIGHER
MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- After two straight months of savings, food prices rebounded in March pushing grocery bills 4 percent higher. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $45.33 this month, up $1.68 from February.
|Tomato prices increase again as Mexico rains hamper harvest.|
Leading the price surge were tomatoes, which were up 39 cents a pound, from $1.17 in February to $1.56 this month. Shoppers haven't seen prices that high since January, when Florida growers were still recovering from the effects of multiple hurricanes. Now--just as prices are beginning to stabilize--heavy rains in Mexico are causing growers there to cut harvest short by three to four weeks. That means tomato prices are likely to remain high until May, when California growers begin harvesting their crop. Meanwhile, the survey showed prices for other produce items were mixed. Lettuce averaged $1.02 a head, up 2 cents, and red potatoes were up 7 cents to 73 cents a pound. Sweet potatoes, however, were less expensive at 78 cents a pound, down 6 cents.
At the meat counter, strong domestic demand for beef and a recent court ruling that delayed the reopening of the Canadian border to beef imports combined to keep prices high. T-bone steaks showed the biggest increase at $8.43 a pound, up 48 cents, while chuck roasts were 22 cents higher at $3.30 a pound. The price of ground beef also was slightly higher at $2.15, up 3 cents. Pork prices, however, were mixed as shoppers enjoyed savings on bacon and roasts. Bacon averaged $3.28 a pound in March, down a nickel, while Boston butts were down 12 cents to $1.51 a pound. Of the pork cuts surveyed, only chops were more expensive at $3.30 a pound, up 14 cents.
Overall, chicken also was more expensive this month, due to a 41-cent-per-pound jump in the price of chicken breasts. Whole fryers, though, remained a good buy at 90 cents a pound, down 6 cents, and eggs prices fell 7 cents to 89 cents a dozen, just in time for Easter.
In the dairy case, prices were relatively stable with a half-gallon of milk ringing in at $2.06, down 4 cents, while a half-gallon of ice cream was up 3 cents to $3.09. The price of butter was unchanged from February at $3.27 a pound.
Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers around the state March 1-8 showed the market basket averaged $43.46 in northwest Alabama, $44.60 in the central counties, $46.34 in south Alabama and $46.45 in the northeast corner of the state.