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Price Of Veggies To Remain High Until March, Arizona Cold Snap To Blame

Kids everywhere will rejoice at this news: broccoli, cauliflower and most leafy greens like spinach and arugula are in short supply these days. Produce managers are struggling to keep their section stocked, and customers are seeing higher-than-normal prices.  A cold snap in Arizona's  Yuma desert is the culprit.

Sammy Duda is with Duda Farm Fresh Foods. He says a warm December meant crops grew too fast, flooding the market ahead of schedule. This created a void when January’s cold temperatures damaged leafy greens.

“This is  not just a West Coast issue,” Duda says.

Grocery distributors are short on supplies, and restaurants may be paying more for spinach, broccoli and romaine. Albertsons, Fred Meyer and even the Boise Co-op are at the mercy of the growing patterns in the Southwest.  

“The deserts of Arizona and California dominate," says Duda. "Many of these vegetables – it’s 90 percent or more of U.S. supplies come out of that area. So when it gets affected, everyone in the states and Canada feels it.”

Temperatures in the southwestern deserts are mostly predictable, which means the price of growing, harvesting and distributing the nation’s winter veggies is also predictable. But when a surprise weather event does happen, Duda says not much can be done to save those crops.

“This crop that we’re harvesting today was planted back in October," he says. "You really can’t do anything on the fly. You could possible plant it in other areas but historically the opportunity to plant in other opportunities – well there isn’t any opportunity to plant in other areas.”

He says some of our fresh produce comes from Florida and Mexico in the winter, but not enough to make up for a disruption in the Southwest.

So when will vegetable supplies return to normal?

Duda says his crops are planted year round, so if the weather holds, he predicts prices and supplies will return to normal by March.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio

Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.

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