Storms Affecting Produce Prices

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PA Baker

Master Chef
Sep 1, 2004
USA, Pennsylvania
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."
Thank you for posting this one, PA.

Good stuff to know about while there is still time to stock up!
My thoughts, too. I've already noticed prices jumping, but really I've seen it thoughout our grocery store. I figured it was the traditional holiday price gouging. Guess we'll be in for more than normal! :x
Exactly, PA. And I dare say we can add orange juice to the list, too, wouldn't you?
I have heard of crop damages causing shortages which cause food prices on ever level to increase. However, I find some of it hype and prices are raised even on products not hurt by storms or heat. A friend was charged $9.00 here in Oregon for 3 tomatoes, needless to say the tomatoes did not go home with him. I have not seen it except for the tomatoes, but I usually buy products produced locally in Oregon.

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