FOOD PRICES EDGE HIGHER DESPITE SAVINGS ON PRODUCE
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Seasonal savings on tomatoes, potatoes and lettuce were not enough to keep Alabama grocery bills in check this month as food prices increased 1 percent. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $43.52 in July, up 47 cents from last month.
Despite the severe drought that has gripped much of the central and southern United States, shoppers still have access to an abundant supply of fresh fruits and vegetables from irrigated fields. That seasonal increase in production pushed tomato prices 11 cents lower this month to $1.22 a pound, and lettuce was down 22 cents to $1.22 a head. Red potatoes also were less expensive at 72 cents a pound, down 9 cents, but sweet potatoes were up a penny to 78 cents a pound.
Although the drought has not directly impacted Alabama food prices, it has taken a toll on Alabama farmers. Cattlemen are selling calves earlier and at lighter weights, which could increase beef supplies over the next several months. In addition, the price of corn used in animal feed is at a 10-year high, which will increase production costs for pork and poultry growers.
Changes this month in the prices of meat and poultry, however, were likely due to increased demand by outdoor grillers. On average, pork chops were up 18 cents to $3.12 a pound, and bacon was 19 cents higher at $3.24 a pound. T-bone steaks also were up this month, averaging $7.82 a pound, an increase of 22 cents. Ground beef, however, was down 11 cents to $1.95, and Boston butts were a good buy at $1.64 a pound, down 3 cents. Meanwhile, whole fryers were down 3 cents to $1.05 a pound, but chicken breasts were up 6 cents to $1.95 a pound. Eggs averaged 92 cents a dozen, down 3 cents.
In the dairy case, a half-gallon of milk was up 4 cents to $2.04, and a half-gallon of ice cream increased 9 cents to $3.38. Butter also was more expensive at $2.75 a pound, up 6 cents.
Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers July 1-6 showed the market basket averaged $41.13 in northwest Alabama, $43.38 in the northeast corner of the state, $44.59 in south Alabama and $45.35 in the central counties.
Alabama Farmers Federation, a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, is the state's largest general farm organization. It conducts its informal monthly market basket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends. According to Agriculture Department statistics, Americans spend just 9.5 percent of their disposable income on food annually, the lowest average of any country in the world.