The Future Of Produce Prices
April 22, 2014

The Future Of Produce Prices

By now, most Americans are aware that California is in the throws of an extreme drought, one that threatens the livelihoods of many Californians. That should be enough to concern others, but if it is not, this just might: the drought in California means that grocery items will increase in price for all Americans.

Recently, Arizona State University released information about research completed by ASU Professor Timothy Richards of the W. P. Carey School of Business as to just which crops will increase in price the most. His research included using “retail-sales data from the Nielsen Perishables Group, an industry analytics and consulting firm, to estimate price elasticities – how much the prices might vary – for the fruit and vegetable crops most likely to be affected by the drought. Those most vulnerable are the crops that use the most water and simply won’t be grown, or those sensitive to reductions in irrigation.”

So just what are the most vulnerable crops? Well, avocados and lettuce will likely see the biggest price percentage jumps at 28 percent and 34 percent respectively. California is the only state that serves as a domestic source for avocados and is the biggest national supplier of lettuce. Avocados and lettuce are not the only crops that will feel the pressure. Here is a breakdown of the most likely affected crops given by ASU:

  • Avocados likely to go up 17 to 35 cents to as much as $1.60 each.
  • Berries likely to rise 21 to 43 cents to as much as $3.46 per clamshell container.
  • Broccoli likely to go up 20 to 40 cents to a possible $2.18 per pound.
  • Grapes likely to rise 26 to 50 cents to a possible $2.93 per pound.
  • Lettuce likely to rise 31 to 62 cents to as much as $2.44 per head.
  • Packaged salad likely to go up 17 to 34 cents to a possible $3.03 per bag.
  • Peppers likely to go up 18 to 35 cents to a possible $2.48 per pound.
  • Tomatoes likely to rise 22 to 45 cents to a possible $2.84 per pound.

Now, I have to admit as an avid fruit and veggie lover and as a vegetarian, if these estimates prove true, I will see a noticeable increase in my grocery bill. Perhaps the worst part of this affect of the drought is that fruits and veggies are already expensive, and many do not eat them because of their cost in comparison to, say, ramen noodles. If the price goes up even more, these individuals may not even look at produce because they simply will not be able to afford fruits and veggies.

Most know that a healthy, well-rounded diet requires fruits and veggies for a variety of reasons: vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, fiber, and other nutrients. But if, or probably more likely, when these prices increase due to the drought, many shoppers will be even less likely to put the produce in their carts.

My initial concern when first I learned of the drought was for the farmers who will be immediately affected by it. Now, though, that concern has grown to all Americans, myself included. I will continue to buy produce because otherwise I would not be able to eat much of anything. But I will have to adjust my budget to do so. I do not have a solution for a natural disaster; however, the more informed we are about what will come out of the drought, the sooner we can start working on our budgets and preparing for the increase in price. We all must prepare for the outcome of such an extreme drought.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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