State’s food prices take dive in April

Published 11:07 pm Saturday, April 18, 2009

MONTGOMERY — Alabama food prices fell for the second straight month in April, led by savings on dairy products and selected meat cuts.

According to the Alabama Farmers Federation’s monthly food price survey, the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $50.97 the first week of April, down $1.74 or 3.3 percent from a month earlier.

Nationally, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s quarterly market basket survey revealed a similar trend. The survey showed the total cost of 16 food items was $47.41, down about 5.5 percent or $2.80 from the fourth quarter of 2008.

At Alabama supermarkets, April’s savings were compounded by pre-Easter sales, which further reduced the prices of certain products. At the meat counter, bacon was down 17 cents a pound to $3.86, and Boston butts were down 15 cents to $1.61 a pound. Pork chops, however, were up a nickel to $3.35 a pound. T-bone steaks posted the biggest change among beef cuts at $7.84 a pound, down 24 cents, and chuck roasts were down 9 cents to $3.33 a pound. Demand for ground beef remains high as the average price increased 4 cents to $2.44 a pound. Poultry prices were mixed with whole fryers averaging $1.25 a pound, up 11 cents, while chicken breasts were unchanged at $2.14 a pound. Eggs were a penny cheaper at $1.49 a dozen.

On the produce aisle, tomatoes and sweet potatoes were each down 8 cents to $1.43 and 84 cents a pound, respectively. Lettuce also was less expensive at $1.39 a head, down 3 cents, but red potatoes were up 2 cents to 89 cents a pound.

In the dairy case, an advertised sale on butter by a major retailer skewed the average price as the dairy staple dropped 57 cents a pound to an average price of $3.09. Ice cream also was cheaper at $3.93 a half gallon, down 20 cents. Meanwhile, milk was down 14 cents to $2.80 a half-gallon, but cottage cheese was up 3 cents to $2.67 a pound.

Regional reports collected by volunteer shoppers April 1-10 showed the market basket averaged $49.72 in northeast Alabama, $51.06 in the northwest corner of the state, $51.69 in the central counties and $56.02 in south Alabama.

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. Recent published reports show that between 1919 and 2007 grocery prices fell 82 percent, when price was based on the number of work hours needed to purchase those products. Ninety years ago, consumers had to work 9.5 hours to purchase 12 basic food items, compared to 1.7 hours two years ago.