COLLEGE STATION — The floods in California will cause some dramatic price increases in broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce, but the overall net effect on produce will be short lived, according to a food marketing specialist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
“The flooding is a bad situation that is going to cause some disruption in the whole market, but I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term situation,” Dr. Dick Edwards said. “We probably will be out of this thing in six to eight weeks.”
Although broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce were the hardest hit crops, a number of acres were not damaged or destroyed, he said. Harvesting for those fields will slow down because of the wet conditions, but it’s difficult to say what prices will be since retail stores already have contracted supplies at certain prices.
“We may see lettuce not on special at 99 cents to $1.09 per head and then see it at 49 to 59 cents the next week because retail stores are committed to a promotion,” Edwards said. “What we won’t see is lettuce prices dropping real low. The cost will probably settle in the 59 to 89 cents range. When you have the 29- to 39-cent lettuce, it’s primarily the result of an oversupply. With this amount of crop being destroyed, we will not have an oversupply situation in the next month or so.”
“A lot of other good vegetables were not damaged by the floods,” Edwards said. “So, I think we will see people shifting to using green, leafy vegetables for salads and other dishes instead of lettuce.”
The weather also will probably affect the almond crop this fall, Edwards said, but since many consumers do not buy almonds directly, most will not notice the increased prices.
The good news concerning weather-damaged produce is that a relatively small percentage of the strawberry crop was destroyed, Edwards said. Consumers will see a slight interruption in prices and no specials for two or three weeks. However, late in April, strawberries will be back on track with prices around 49 to 59 cents a pint.
Consumers can look forward to seeing the “wonderful 1015 onion” in grocery stores in April, he said. Supplies on the so-called “sweet onion” will be similar to last year’s. When the onions first come to market, prices will be about 69 to 79 cents, then drop to around 39 to 49 cents on sale.
Tomatoes will start coming in from Florida priced at about 59 cents a pound, Edwards said. The squash crop will be early this year with no projection in price as of yet. Also, consumers will see the beginning of the melon market. Cantaloupes and a few watermelons will be available, but not much of a bargain for thrifty shoppers.
“News in the meat department sounds like a broken record, which is good for consumers who have enjoyed a year of relatively low prices,” he said. “There’s been no pressure on prices to go up, so they will remain the same for beef, pork and chicken. What will shift is advertising from roasts to steaks as people began to cook more outside on the grill.”
The headliner around Easter certainly will be hams, Edwards said. Traditionally, Easter is a ham month, and shoppers will probably see the $1.09 per pound ham put on special for about 89 cents a pound. There will be some specials on eggs, primarily the medium size, for those who want to boil and color them. Flowers and potted plants also will be featured as part of the Easter promotion.
“Anything that you normally fix with ham such as sweet potatoes probably will go on sale,” Edwards said. “In addition, there is usually a big soft drink promotion around holidays, so look for specials on different brands.”