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Produce + Big Freeze = Big Bucks at the Supermarket

As you may know, winter is the season for citrus. Unfortunately, winter is also the season for big chills, winter storms and cold fronts. The severe weather that we in California are experiencing is expected to highly impact the fresh produce industry. In fact, over 70 percent of this season's citrus crop was ruined, which could lead to a total loss of over $1 billion. Other crops, such as lettuce, avocados, artichokes, strawberries and broccoli were also hit and will be in short supply.

So what's this mean for you? It means that you better get prepared for a shock at the supermarket. Wholesale prices for oranges have already tripled and artichokes have doubled.

Mike Kaprielian, produce buyer at Cal-Mart Supermarket in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood, said lettuce has started to edge up, and he expects more price rises.

"Last week I paid $17 for a box of leaf lettuce. Now that same box is up to $24," he said. "It probably will continue going up because the product they're picking now is what was out in the field" during the freezes.

"The additional cost I have to pay will be passed on to the customer," Kaprielian said. "That's just part of doing business."

However, on the bright side, stone fruits (like plums and cherries) actually enjoy a good cold snap. So maybe you could start with a glass of cherry juice in the morning instead?!

Source: San Francisco Chronicle - January 16 and January 18

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