GRN Reports

It’s no surprise that the historic drought in California will affect supplies, and then the prices, of the many fruits and vegetables grown there.

Tomatoes, homegrown

Crops that require a lot of water will be hardest hit, and see big price increases.

But for those living in say, New York or Minnesota, far from the parched growing fields of the “Valley” the price hikes may come as a bit of a shock. Texas residents may be among the few who see the price hikes blunted as produce from the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico fills in gaps.

Timothy Richards, the Morrison Chair professor at the Morrison School of Agribusiness at Arizona State University, researched which crops are likely to be hardest hit and most expensive as a result of California’s distress.

He estimated that the prices of several foods will mushroom, no pun intended, as crops are conscripted or damaged by the water shortages. The worst hit will be avocados and lettuce, which could experience a price jump of about one-third.

Veggie lovers get ready, the full list of produce that will see significant price increases includes berries, broccoli, grapes, melons, peppers, tomatoes and packaged salads (meaning mixed greens will be affected). The professor estimates that the drought will force price increases like this:

• 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.

Richards used retail-sales data from Nielsen Perishables Group, an industry consulting firm, to determine price variances. The Nielsen group predicts a ripple effect in other types of groceries as produce prices rise.

For instance, as some customers forgo guacamole, the sales of tortilla chips would likely slump.

Other foods might pick up sales as they replace the pricier produce. “While some consumers will pay the increased prices, others will substitute or leave the category completely,” said Sherry Frey, vice president of Nielsen Perishables Group.

The crisis in California will also make it harder to “shop local” – or nearly so — for US consumers.

“One other thing for shoppers to understand – because prices are going to go up so much, retailers will start looking elsewhere for produce. This means we’ll see a lot more imports from places like Chile and Mexico, which may be an issue for certain grocery customers who want domestic fruit and vegetables,” Richards said.