ALABAMA FOOD PRICES INCREASE 1 PERCENT
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Higher prices for meat and poultry, combined with near record-high prices for tomatoes, pushed Alabama grocery bills 1.2 percent higher in February, according to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey. Prices collected by volunteer shoppers across the state Feb. 1-8 showed the cost of 20 basic market basket items averaged $45.45 this month, up 52 cents from January.
Although tomato prices fell in February as Florida tomato farmers began to recover from the 2005 hurricane season, the decrease was not enough to offset a huge spike in prices during December and January. This month, tomatoes averaged $2.56 a pound, down 10 cents, and experts say prices will continue to drop as more fields come into production. Meanwhile, lettuce prices retreated a nickel to $1.20 a head, but red potatoes were up 4 cents to 69 cents a pound, and sweet potatoes increased 6 cents to 81 cents a pound.
At the meat counter, strong demand for beef pushed prices 4.9 percent higher. T-bone steaks averaged $7.89, up 31 cents, and chuck roasts were up 42 cents to $3.34 a pound. Ground beef was a good buy, however, at $2.16 a pound, down 10 cents. Pork prices were mixed with chops averaging $3.38 a pound, up 16 cents, while bacon was 3 cents lower at $3.39 a pound. Boston butts were up 2 cents to $1.52 a pound.
Poultry prices were up 4.9 percent, fueled by a 16-cent-per-pound increase in the cost of chicken breasts. The higher-value cut averaged $1.95 a pound while whole fryers fell 2 cents to $1.02 a pound. Eggs dropped sharply to $1.03 a dozen, down 16 cents.
In the dairy case, prices were down across the board with a half-gallon of milk averaging $2, down a nickel. Ice cream prices edged 2 cents lower to $3.06 a half-gallon, and butter fell 6 cents to $2.85 a pound.
Regional reports collected throughout the state showed the market basket averaged $42.39 in northwest Alabama, $45.45 in the central counties, $46.33 in the northeast corner of the state and $46.52 in south Alabama.