Weather forcing rise in Calif. produce prices

December 29, 2010 5:48:01 PM PST
The unrelenting rain in Southern California and the freezing temperatures in Florida have direct consequences for you. The nasty weather on both coasts means that in the Bay Area, the price of produce is going up.

The price hike for produce is expected to last about 30 days, just in time for all everyone's New Year's resolutions to get healthy kick in. However, analysts say the 3-day-timeframe should be enough for growers to get back on their feet after what has been an extremely rough winter.

Business might look like it is booming at the Oakland Produce Terminal, but business there is a gamble and no one knows the hand that will be dealt.

"You're playing the stock market because it's so unpredictable. One day, this price and the next day, go sky high," West Coast Produce manager Van Lam told ABC7.

Constant rains and floods in Southern California have drenched crops there. In Florida, December's freezing temperatures broke records and caused at least $115 million in damage. Those numbers are expected to rise even more in coming weeks and Californians are sure to pay.

"We definitely have to pass down to the consumer, and a lot of shocking to a lot of people," Lam said.

Shocked does not even begin to describe Jenny Gi's reaction to a recent broccoli purchase. The price rose from $8 to $36 a case. She works at the Peking Restaurant in Livermore and can barely keep up.

"I work seven days a week right now. In the morning, 7:00, to back to my house almost midnight," she says.

From citrus to lettuce, to tomatoes and peppers, it has all been hit hard. Farmers in Florida coated their strawberry fields with water to salvage what was left and prevent freezing. That means in California stores, some produce is not just more expensive, it could soon be impossible to find.

"There's no strawberries, and none organic. We used to have them for like $1.80 a pound. Now, they're like $4.50 a pound," said Berkeley Bowl produce manager Ray Saldana.

The absence does not mean the demand has gone away. Customers still want their fresh fruits and veggies and they are willing to pay.

"Yeah, we just buy less of it. So, we'll buy things that we want that are seasonal, but less of it because the prices have gone up," said shopper Peter Ross.

The freeze in Florida has caused the demand for oranges in California to go up. In January, the price of oranges is expected to increase by about 3 percent to $1.74 per pound. That would be the highest oranges have been in the last three years.


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