Local News

Winter weather still impacting produce costs

Posted February 15, 2011 5:03 p.m. EST
Updated February 15, 2011 6:28 p.m. EST

— The weather may be getting warmer, but the memory of winter is still fresh at the grocery store. Freezing temperatures have devastated crops in both of the nation's crucial winter growing regions, creating shortages in the produce that's available.

When supply dwindles, prices shoot up. 

The Nicholas family was shopping at a Cary supermarket Tuesday. They bought tomatoes.

"We usually, because they are historically a little less expensive, get the Roma tomatoes," said Bobbi Nicholas. 

But tomatoes, like cucumbers and peppers, are getting harder to find and their prices are racing higher.

The Wendy's chain of fast-food restaurants isn't even using tomatoes on their sandwiches unless a customer specifically requests them.

Wes Summer manages Ward's Fruit and Produce in Raleigh. He said he's been in the produce business for 30 years, but he's never seen prices jump this much.

A box of tomatoes that would have cost $12 two weeks ago now costs about $35 to $40, Summer said.

In December, a freeze in Florida destroyed crops there. A couple of weeks ago, a bad freeze in the Southwest United States and Mexico damaged crops as well.

"A freeze in both parts of the country the same year is really rare, extremely rare," Summer said.

Summer said it could be another month before produce prices return to normal. 

"Where you might have spent a couple dollars a pound for a tomato, it could be 6, 7, 8, 10 dollars a pound now. It's gonna be expensive," he said. 

Summer said lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli prices are likely to drop first, around the beginning of April.