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Pepper demand remains elevated

Bell pepper prices are significantly higher than last year as the crop transitions from Mexico and desert areas to Central California.

Supplies should start growing from the Carolinas and East Coast and Midwest local growing regions, which could ease the pressure on the market.

Retail demand has been strong this spring and early summer. Retail scan data shows year-over-year sales have been between 20 percent and 30 percent higher each week from early March through June.

Total Volume of Bell Peppers January-July 2018-2020

We can observe from the graph the Bell Pepper volume so far for 2020 is just over 1 billion pounds, said David Wilson, Sales Director, Shipper and Grower Category, for Agtools Inc.

Blue Book has teamed with Agtools Inc., the data analytic service for the produce industry, to look at a handful of crops and how they’re adjusting in the market during the pandemic.

In blue, 2019 with 997 million pounds in red and 2018 with 1.035 billion pounds. It has been very steady for the last three years.

Mexico Bell Peppers Volume compared to Florida and California January -July 8th 2020

We can observe that Mexico is by far the largest supplier to the U.S. the first half of the year, but supplies have been falling steadily since February, Wilson said.

Green Bell Peppers, Extra Large, Shipping Prices, 3 Year Comparison, 2018, 2019, 2020 for Period of June through first week of July: Sourced from San Joaquin Valley, California

This year has been favorable for Green Bell Pepper grower-shippers, and in this instance, we see that extra large peppers are priced at $27-29, Wilson said. This was 80 percent higher than in 2018 and 58 percent than in 2019.

This graph is based on sourcing from the San Joaquin Valley, CA. It is possible that this increase in pricing is a result of more attention to nutrition and thus increased demand for healthy green bell peppers for use in salads and other dishes, he said.

Retail Pricing in the Northeast USA of Green Bell Peppers, January 1 through July 1, 2020.

As indicated in the graph, the individual retail price in the Northeast of a green bell pepper has oscillated around $1 each during the first six months of this year, Wilson said.

There were high points around February 15th and March 30th where the price spiked to $1.60 per pepper. These spikes could have been due to irrational purchasing due to the pandemic.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services