Prices drop in Arizona's grocery stores - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Prices drop in Arizona's grocery stores

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Posted: Thursday, January 6, 2011 11:23 am | Updated: 5:58 pm, Fri Jan 7, 2011.

Arizona consumers are benefitting from having a lot of grocery stores competing for their business.

A new survey Thursday from the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation found that their market basket of popular items slid more than 2 percent in the last quarter, to $45.44

While that $1.04 difference doesn't seem like much, the organization's Julie Murphree pointed out that this is bucking the nationwide trend: Prices for the same batch of items was actually up by 80 cents over the third quarter, to $46.97.

"We're in a very competitive market here," Murphree said.

The state is host to several major retail grocery chains. Wal-Mart has become a major player, with Target also adding food to some of its stores.

But Murphree said the state's weak economy also has played a role.

"That causes food retailers (to have) a lot harder time to raise prices on Arizona families," she said. The situation is not as bleak in the rest of the country.

Murphree cautioned, though, that shoppers could be in for some surprises early this year. The key, she said, is the price of energy - and oil in particular.

She said the price of oil is running around $90 a barrel.

"We're going to see that, obviously, at the retail market," Murphree said. "Everything floats on a barrel of oil, no pun intended." Those costs translate into higher gasoline and diesel prices, affecting everything from farm equipment to the trucks that deliver the groceries.

While the total market basket price dropped, there were some big winners and losers.

The price of boneless chicken breasts dropped by more than 25 percent. But shoppers for other kinds of meat will be shelling out more, topped by sliced deli ham where the price found by Farm Bureau is approaching $5 a pound.

Murphree said careful shoppers probably can do better, especially if they clip coupons. The figures in the survey reflect shelf prices.

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