Milk and egg prices also rising
Special to The Standard
Soaring milk and egg prices pushed Alabama grocery bills 4.8 percent higher in April, according to the Alabama Farmers Federations monthly food price survey. Reports collected by voluntary shoppers across the state April 1-7 showed the average cost of 20 basic market basket items was $43.81 this month, up $2.01 from March and up $5.49 from a year ago.
After hitting a 25-year low last year, milk prices are rebounding to record highs, fueled by a reduction in supply. In Alabama, shoppers are paying about 11 percent more for dairy products than last month, and prices could increase more as summer approaches. Federation Dairy Director Jim Cravey said a number of factors have combined to reduce supplies and increase prices.
Extremely low prices in the past few years have forced many dairy farmers out of business, and others have reduced the size of their herds, Cravey said.
In addition, high beef prices and high feed prices have discouraged farmers from expanding their herds. The recovery we are seeing in milk prices is good news for dairy farmers. They need a profitable year to help them pay off some of the debt they incurred in recent years when milk prices hit record lows.
Cravey said there are currently 104 dairy farms in Alabama; that's down from 164 just four years ago.
At Alabama supermarkets, a half-gallon of milk averaged $1.90 in April, up 6 cents from last month, while a half-gallon of ice cream jumped 63 cents to $3.40. Butter also was more expensive at $3.15 a pound, up 44 cents.
Meanwhile, egg prices resumed their upward climb after falling in March due to below-cost promotions by retailers. This month, a dozen eggs averaged $1.47, up 13 cents. Whole fryers were a nickel higher at $1 a pound, while chicken breasts held steady at $2.14 a pound, up 2 cents.
At the butchers counter, beef prices increased 6.5 percent with T-bone steaks weighing in at $7.78 a pound, up 34 cents. Ground beef was 20 cents higher at $1.82 a pound, and chuck roasts were 24 cents more expensive at $3.13 a pound. Pork chops were a bargain this month at $2.92 a pound, down 52 cents, but bacon was up a nickel to $3.07 a pound. Boston butts also were higher at $1.52 a pound, up 17 cents.
On the produce aisle, prices were mixed with tomatoes ringing in at $1.59 a pound, up 17 cents, while lettuce was 20 cents cheaper at $1.04 a head. Sweet potatoes also were a good buy at 77 cents a pound, down 6 cents, but red potatoes were up 11 cents to 71 cents a pound.