Retail prices for food at the supermarket decreased slightly in the fourth quarter of 2006, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey. The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 basic grocery items in the fourth quarter of 2006 was $39.69, down about 3 percent or $1.40 from the third quarter of 2006.

Of the 16 items surveyed, 13 decreased and three increased in average price compared to the 2006 third-quarter survey. Compared to one year ago, the overall cost for the marketbasket items is up about 2 percent.

β€œWhile families watch their food dollars at the grocery store, Arizona farmers and ranchers carefully watch their costs to produce healthy and safe food,” said Kevin Rogers, president of the Arizona Farm Bureau. β€œOur farmers and ranchers are competing against foreign producers in the world market. They must continually make adjustments to increase efficiencies without reducing quality as they experience rising costs in labor, fuel, and regulations.”

Rogers added U.S. farm and livestock operations are getting larger and more efficient. This helps stabilize the cost of food for American families.

A 5-pound bag of flour and a 10-oz. box of toasted oat cereal showed the largest decrease, down 28 cents to $1.60 and $2.82 respectively. The per-pound price for bacon and whole chicken fryers dropped 19 cents, to $3.20 and $1.19 respectively. Other items that decreased in price were: red delicious apples, down 15 cents to $1.36 per pound; mayonnaise, down 14 cents to $3.23 per 32-oz. jar; Russet potatoes, down 14 cents to $2.31 per 5-pound bag; pork chops, down 13 cents to $3.19 per pound; ground chuck, down 11 cents to $2.54 per pound; vegetable oil, down 9 cents to $2.48 per 32-oz. bottle; sirloin tip roast, down 8 cents to $3.62 per pound; corn oil, down 7 cents to $2.63 per 32-oz. bottle; and whole milk, down 6 cents to $2.97 per gallon.

Items that increased in price from the third quarter of 2006 were: cheddar cheese, up 27 cents to $3.79 per pound; bread, up 14 cents to $1.58 for a 20-oz. loaf; and large eggs, up 10 cents to $1.18 per dozen.

According to Agriculture Department statistics, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable income on food annually, the lowest average of any country in the world.