Missouri had the 2nd rainiest May to July period since 1981, creating difficulties for vegetable growers to get in the field to plant successive crops. And growers reported yields were low for 1st field plantings for important crops, like tomatoes. This led growers talking about to higher prices in early August at two auctions in Mid- MO, Clark and Central. There was some discussion about whether the increase was due just to the lower supply, or if it was also due to increased demand. And was it statewide? Below is a table that looks at 3 exemplary summer crops, tomatoes, zucchini, and watermelons, and their respective prices at the St. Louis wholesale market and 3 auctions in different regions.
Two dates were selected, about 2 weeks apart in August. It appears Central was a bit higher on tomatoes and notably higher on zucchinis. But it appears the prices were decent in both the North and SW on watermelons and tomatoes.
|Tomato-L or XL, VR||$/LB|
|Zucchini (and yellow)||1/2 bu|
|*Avg. 21 for 2nd date|
Reasons for increased demand centered on two:
On the first, horticulture specialists around the state heard many variations of failure. Furthermore, the two authors of this article have been part of a statewide pricing and quality survey project of farmers markets for this summer and last. We have noticed poorer quality and slightly higher prices. We saw a shortage of zucchini and cucumbers in August! So yes, local demand would be up.
Assessing the effect of the CA drought is more difficult. For the St. Louis terminal, CA is often not the main competition for these ‘in-season’ crops. Note is was only once in 6 sample points. Secondly, one can’t tell if there is a domino effect, that a shortage of CA product in another terminal tightens the supply in several others. Nonetheless, it is obvious from the price of tomatoes, that they can be bought for less, so the fact that buyers come to the auction means they want local quality. On zucchini and watermelons, the terminal prices were often higher, which means buyers are likely getting a better deal at auctions.
Growers have commented they are bringing less product to the market, and that the higher prices will help balance things out. The good news is that the quality at the auction has more or less been good. That’s a positive note considering that it’s
REVISED: November 16, 2015