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ProduceIQ: Industry prices struggle as berries lead decline

Overall market prices sink lower again. Berries and stone fruit continue to slide during a time of year notorious for falling prices.

In June, the U.S. begins heavy domestic harvesting. Between California and Georgia, buyers have plentiful access to a variety of peak-season produce. Berries are no exception.

It hasn’t been an easy road for berry growers. In an article written by The Wall Street Journal, Driscoll’s Inc. BB #:116044 Executive, Soren Bjorn, cited the difficulty he encountered when trying to forecast strawberry acreage to plant for the next year.

“You feel like you should be able to manage because we’ve been in this environment for some time now,” Bjorn told reporter Jesse Newman. “Yet it feels a little unmanageable.”

Bjorn’s team of analysts must have forecast acreage well as the strawberry markets are relatively steady. Though declining for two weeks, prices remain at the high end of their range. Increased demand and inconsistent supply keep strawberry prices destabilized.

The pandemic brought another dimension of risk to fresh produce, particularly for plants with longer growing cycles. As temperatures increase for the summer, regional seasons transition quickly, increasing price volatility. Obtaining steady prices in fresh produce is no easy feat.

Strawberry markets hold due to moderate temperatures in California.

ProduceIQ Index: $1.04 /pound, -8.8 percent over prior week
Week #23 ending June 11th

Blue Book has teamed with ProduceIQ BB #:368175 to bring the ProduceIQ Index to its readers. The index provides a produce industry price benchmark using 40 top commodities to provide data for decision making.

In California and Georgia, blueberries near seasonal peak production. Falling under $16 per case, blueberry prices are hovering slightly above historic lows. Prices typically fall further until week 30. It’s a great time to promote blueberries.

In Coachella Valley, CA, growers harvesting red and green grapes are seeing decreased pricing as harvesting increases throughout the region. Still, early supply shortages are keeping prices elevated above historic norms.

Stone fruit fell -12 percent on good supply. Domestic peach and nectarine growers forecasted a bountiful season due to ample chill hours during the winter months. Increasing supply has prices trending downwards, which is typical for this time of year.

Lettuce and leaf prices remain near the floor due to ideal growing conditions.

The irony of low prices combined with the best quality continues for lettuce. Romaine and Iceberg have continued at floor pricing for several weeks. No breakout weather events have helped pricing during 2021. Promotions to drive demand are welcomed.

Tomatoes are a silver lining with prices reaching a 10-year high. Provoked by the seasonal transition between Florida and Mexico and further aggravated by a severe supply gap on grape tomatoes, all varieties are trending higher.

Domestic growers in South Carolina and California are providing some relief to tight markets. However prices are expected to remain elevated throughout June.

Grape tomato prices soar above historical years.

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ProduceIQ Index
The ProduceIQ Index is the fresh produce industry’s only shipping point price index. It represents the industry-wide price per pound at the location of packing for domestic produce, and at the port of U.S. entry for imported produce.

ProduceIQ uses 40 top commodities to represent the industry. The Index weights each commodity dynamically, by season, as a function of the weekly 5-year rolling average Sales. Sales are calculated using the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service for movement and price data. The Index serves as a fair benchmark for industry price performance.

Mark Campbell was introduced to the fresh produce industry as a lender for Farm Credit. After earning his MBA from Columbia Business School, he spent seven years as CFO for J&J Family of Farms and later served as CFO advisor to several produce growers, shippers and distributors. In this role, Mark saw the impediments that prevent produce growers and buyers to trade with greater access and efficiency. This led him to cofound ProduceIQ.