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October 15, 2009   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4187
October 15, 2009

Lower tomato prices offset higher milk and butter prices in October.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Lower prices for tomatoes and potatoes helped to offset higher costs for milk and butter in October as the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was statistically unchanged from a month ago. According to the Alabama Farmers Federation's monthly food price survey, Alabama shoppers paid just 2 cents more this month for the surveyed items, which had a total average cost of $50.82.

Seasonal savings on red and sweet potatoes were expected as the price of red spuds fell 8 cents to 78 cents a pound and sweet potatoes dropped 9 cents to 87 cents a pound. In addition, tomatoes were down 8 cents to $1.47 a pound, but lettuce was up a nickel to $1.34 a head.

In the dairy case, the news for shoppers wasn't quite as good. Reduced production prompted by a freefall in wholesale milk prices earlier in the year is beginning to have an effect at the grocery store. During the first eight months of the year, shoppers saw milk prices steadily decline while dairy farmers reduced herd sizes in an effort to stay afloat. This month, average prices for dairy products at Alabama supermarkets were up across the board. A half-gallon of milk was up 5 cents to $2.78; ice cream was up 9 cents to $3.78 a half-gallon; cottage cheese edged 2 cents higher to $2.50 a pound, and butter jumped 18 cents to $3.52 a pound.

In the meat case, however, shoppers enjoyed more good news as the average price of bacon fell 22 cents to $3.77 a pound. Boston butts were up a penny to $1.59 a pound, and pork chops were unchanged at $3.33 a pound. Ground beef was also a good buy at $2.22 a pound, down a nickel, and chuck roasts were down 4 cents to $3.34 a pound. T-bone steaks showed the biggest gain at $8.26 a pound, up 12 cents. Poultry prices showed modest increase with whole fryers averaging $1.18 a pound, up a penny, while chicken breasts were up 5 cents to $2.13 a pound. Eggs were also up a penny to $1.31 a dozen.

Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers throughout the state Oct. 1-10 showed the market basket averaged $49.42 in northeast Alabama, $49.52 in the northwest corner of the state, $51.40 in the central counties and $53.78 in south Alabama.

Nationally, the American Farm Bureau Federation's quarterly market basket survey shows prices are down from last quarter and significantly lower than a year ago. The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare a meal was $46.03, down 26 cents from the second quarter of 2009 and $4.18 lower, or about 10 percent less, compared to one year ago.

Alabama Farmers Federation, a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, conducts the informal monthly market basket survey as a tool to reflect retail food price trends. Americans spend a smaller portion of their disposable income on food than any country in the world, about 10 percent.

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