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October 16, 2008   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
October 16, 2008

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The recent drop in the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel came too late to help Alabama shoppers with their grocery bills, as the average cost of 20 basic market basket items increased nine-tenths of 1 percent in October. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, the market basket averaged $54.06 the first week of the month, up 50 cents from September.

Although about 40 percent of the increased cost of food can be directly attributed to higher energy costs, shoppers may not see relief at the checkout for weeks or months. Meanwhile, strong international demand for meat and dairy products, along with higher feeds costs and labor shortages among Western produce, farmers will continue to put upward pressure on food prices.

At Alabama supermarkets, October shoppers enjoyed savings on eggs, poultry and certain types of produce and dairy products, but saw their overall grocery bill increase due to higher prices for beef and pork. At the meat counter, bacon and Boston butts were both up 16 cents per pound to $3.95 and $1.91, respectively. Pork chops, however, were unchanged at $3.55 a pound. Beef prices were up across the board with T-bone steaks averaging $8.68 a pound and chuck roasts averaging $3.67 a pound, both up 15 cents. Ground beef also was higher at $2.44 a pound, up 6 cents. Meanwhile, chicken breasts fell 39 cents to $1.95 a pound, and whole fryers were unchanged at $1.20 a pound. A dozen eggs averaged $1.59, down 16 cents.

On the produce aisle, tomatoes were down 8 cents to $1.44 a pound, and sweet potatoes were down 3 cents to 87 cents a pound. Red potatoes, however, were up 2 cents to 92 cents a pound, and lettuce jumped 22 cents to $1.63 a head. Reports from Western states say a shortage of farm workers is contributing to higher prices for labor-intensive crops like lettuce.

In the dairy case, prices were mixed with a half-gallon of milk averaging $3.12, down 4 cents, while cottage cheese was down a nickel to $2.72 a pound. Ice cream, though, was up 5 cents to $4.02 a half-gallon, and butter was up 21 cents to $3.91 a pound.

Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers throughout the state Oct. 1-10 showed the market basket averaged $52.17 in northwest Alabama, $53.61 in the northeast corner of the state, $55.48 in the central counties and $55.97 in south Alabama.

Alabama Farmers Federation, a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, is the state's largest farm organization. Its county members conduct the informal monthly market basket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends. Despite recent increases in food prices, Americans will spend 19 percent less of their disposable income this year on food than in 1974.

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