Erratic US weather could lead to sparse salad plates
- Excessive rain this winter has threatened almond, celery, strawberry and other crops in the Salinas Valley in California, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- Record rains could damage and lead to delays in delivery of some crops, prompting shortages and higher prices. The Salinas Valley produces most of the leafy greens for the U.S. during this stretch of the season until cooler areas start contributing to supply.
- Other U.S. regions have been hit by erratic weather, too. In the Midwest, a string of warm days is a concern for maple syrup, apples and other fruit producers who depend on cold temperatures to trigger part of the production cycle in their orchards, the paper said. Volatile weather also has struck farmers in the southern U.S.
The U.S. is heavily dependent on certain regions of the country to produce specific kinds of food so when unusual weather hits, too much of one extreme can limit or delay supplies -- wrecking havoc at the grocery store shelf and kitchen table. For California, the deluge comes following several years of drought where the state's water shortage became so severe that usage restrictions impacted both residents and crop farmers. The state is a major producer of a variety of crops including almonds, kiwi, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, among several dozen other crops.
The Wall Street Journal noted scientists are breeding plants to tolerate higher temperatures while some farmers are using large fans to blow warmer air on their crops during a cold snap. More research to enable crops to withstand weather changes will help, but it's not likely to be enough to make up for the supply shortages.
In grocery stores, the absence of some produce or higher prices for what's there could deter some consumers from purchasing it or make them more likely to switch to cheaper alternatives that haven't been hurt by the weather. Some grocers are scrapping sales and displaying less produce because they can’t guarantee a steady supply. “A pull back from promotions has definitely happened,” said Steve Jarzombek, vice president of produce for Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc., a Midwest chain owned by Kroger Co. “There’s a real strain out there.”
While retailers can't control how much is making it into their produce departments, they can, and should, be doing a better job of keeping produce department workers aware of why there are shortages. And every possible effort should be made to allow them to communicate that messages to consumers.