SHOPPERS PAYING MORE FOR EGGS, DAIRY PRODUCTS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Higher prices for eggs and dairy products pushed Alabama grocery bills 1.3 percent higher in March. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $46.03 in this month, up 58 cents from February.
Tightening supplies were credited for a 25-percent spike in egg prices, which increased to $1.29 a dozen, up 26 cents. Dairy products were up an average of 5 percent, with a half-gallon of milk ringing in at $2.10, up a dime. Ice cream was 40 cents more expensive at $3.46 a half-gallon, while butter was down a penny to $2.84 a pound.
The good news for shoppers this month was a substantial drop in tomato prices, which had spiked following the 2005 hurricane season that cut production in Florida. In March, Alabama tomato prices averaged $1.96 a pound, down 60 cents from February. Red potatoes, however, were up 14 cents to 83 cents a pound, and lettuce was up 6 cents, to $1.26 a head. The average price of sweet potatoes was unchanged at 81 cents a pound.
At the meat counter, prices were mixed the first week of March -- prior to the March 13 announcement of a confirmed case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Beef experts predicted the announcement was likely to have minimal impact on beef prices, noting that the affected cow never entered the food supply. They said consumers have confidence in the safety of American beef as demonstrated in the sustained high demand for beef following a similar announcement last year.
At Alabama supermarkets, the average price of T-bone steaks was up 5 cents in March to $7.94 a pound, and ground beef was up 14 cents to $2.30 a pound. Chuck roasts, however, were a good buy at $3.09 a pound, down a quarter. Shoppers also could find savings on pork, with bacon averaging $3.27 a pound, down 12 cents. Pork chops were up a penny to $3.39 a pound, and Boston butts were up 17 cents to $1.69 a pound.
On average, poultry prices increased 2.7 percent with chicken breasts selling for $2 a pound, up 5 cents, while whole fryers were up 4 cents to $1.06 a pound.
Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers across the state March 1-10, showed the market basket averaged $42.62 in northwest Alabama, $46.07 in south Alabama, $46.08 in the northeast corner of the state and $47.02 in the central counties.