LOWER DAIRY, PRODUCE PRICES BRING RELIEF TO SHOPPERS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Lower prices for milk, eggs and produce provided relief for Alabama shoppers in January as the average cost of 20 basic market basket items dropped 1 percent. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the market basket averaged $50.88, down 51 cents from December.
American Farm Bureau Federation Economist Jim Sartwelle said the quarterly, national survey also showed a drop in dairy prices.
"Retail milk prices took a breather from a wild 2007 ride during the fourth quarter," said Sartwelle. "For the time being, it appears domestic milk prices have leveled off, in part because the increased foreign demand for U.S. dairy products that began in the first quarter of 2007 has stabilized."
In Alabama, milk averaged $3.01 a half-gallon in December, down 14 cents, while brand-name ice cream was 7 cents cheaper at $4.24 a half-gallon. Cottage cheese also was down sharply to $2.44 a pound, a difference of 31 cents from a month ago. Butter, however, was slightly more expensive at $3.31 a pound, up 3 cents.
The arrival of a new crop of tomatoes and lettuce from farmers in warmer climates also brought savings to the produce aisle where tomatoes averaged $1.89 a pound, down a quarter from December's price. Lettuce was down 11 cents to $1.33 a head, and red potatoes were down 2 cents to 69 cents a pound. Sweet potatoes posted a modest increase of 2 cents, averaging 84 cents at Alabama supermarkets.
The other major price mover this month was eggs, which averaged $1.69 a dozen, down 31 cents from a December high of $2 a dozen.
At the meat counter, prices were generally higher, but lower-value cuts showed slight declines. On average, pork chops were up 26 cents to $3.29 a pound, and bacon was up 3 cents to $3.79 a pound. Boston butts, however, were down 4 cents to $1.68 a pound. T-bone steaks also jumped 27 cents to $8.50 a pound, and chuck roasts were up 13 cents to $3.14 a pound. Ground beef, though, was down 4 cents to $2.20 a pound.
Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers across the state Jan. 1-10 showed the market basket averaged $48.68 in northwest Alabama, $49.75 in the northeast corner of the state, $52.15 in the central counties and $53.63 in south Alabama.
Alabama Farmers Federation, a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, is the state's largest farm organization. It conducts its informal monthly market basket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends. According to Agriculture Department statistics, U.S. consumers spend just 10 percent of their disposable income on food, compared to 14 percent in Japan, 20 percent in Israel, 26 percent in China, 39 percent in the Philippines and 55 percent in Indonesia.