Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: USA, Pennsylvania
Storms Affecting Produce Prices
This article was in our local paper today...
Storms hurting produce
By Karla Browne, November 11, 2004
The effects of the hurricane season aren't over yet.
Higher prices and possible short supplies at the supermarket are partially attributable to storm damage to tomato, bell pepper and grapefruit crops, says Jeff Beaulieu, vice president of produce and floral for Giant Food Stores.
Add to that a rainy summer and record heat in California, new trucking regulations, high fuel costs and increased demand for fruit and vegetables - and produce marketers are facing an "unprecedented situation."
In 32 years in retail produce, "I've never seen so much hit us in so short a period of time," Beaulieu says.
Giant's cost for some types of tomatoes have gone up 300 percent over last year's prices, he says. Bell peppers are up 150 percent over last year. The Middlesex Township-based chain has hiked retail prices only 35 to 40 percent, however.
Despite short supply, Giant won't lower produce standards, Beaulieu says. "If it doesn't meet our quality inspection, we will not carry it."
Look for 'funky' shapes
However, "you're going to see some funky sizes and shapes of lettuce heads," Beaulieu says. Lettuce heads will be light and puffy, which is not a bad thing, he says.
Although customers typically like a hard, heavy head of lettuce, the lightweight ones have less water and more flavor, Beaulieu says.
Expect smaller grapefruit, he adds. Because so many trees in Florida were damaged, "there's going to be a lot of No. 2s that will go to the market for processing." Not until Texas grapefruit comes in will Giant be able to offer a large, quality grapefruit.
Broccoli and cauliflower growers in California are reporting rot inside the buds because of excessive rain. Giant customers won't see that on store shelves, but they may see less of those vegetables at higher prices.
Organic produce is likely to be more scarce, particularly if a storm forecast for this weekend hits California growers hard, Beaulieu says.
"Whenever there is a weather condition, the first affected is organics" because organic growers can't use fungicides to combat mildew, he says.
Strawberries and grapes from Oxnard, Calif., also are likely to be in short supply because growers have had to strip vines and bushes of mildewed fruit, Beaulieu says.
And produce inspectors will be taking a close look at celery for bruising due to harvesting during wet conditions, he says.
Thanksgiving crops fine
"We have some good news," Beaulieu says. Traditional Thanksgiving dinner tables aren't likely to show the effects of the crisis. Cranberries, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips and other root vegetables are not affected.
Banana, mushroom and Clementine supplies are stable.
"We've had a great apple crop, both New York state and Washington, along with pears," Beaulieu says.
And he can see an end to the shortage of tomatoes, peppers and lettuce, although it will be gradual over a few months.
"As we exit out of the year 2004, all of this should be behind us."