Weather Conditions Endanger Food Supplies

Study predicts an increase in grocery prices up to 20 percent
March 23, 2014 Updated: March 23, 2014

A new study indicates that consumers will be getting less for each dollar spent on groceries this year due to unfavorable weather conditions across the nation.

The cost of beef, pork, vegetables, and nuts will very likely increase by up to 20 percent, according to Glynn Tonsor, associate professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University.

“Most people recognize weather has a big hand in food production,” said Tonsor in a press release. “What they might not recognize is the actual location of food production around the country, therefore, how weather across the country impacts the food prices they see.”

According to the House Committee on Natural Resources, California agriculture provides 99 percent of the nation’s artichokes, almonds, dates, figs, olives, peaches, kiwi, walnuts, pistachios, and pomegranates; at least 95 percent of the nation’s plums, garlic, nectarines, canned tomatoes, and broccoli; at least 90 percent of the nation’s celery, wine grapes, apricots, strawberries, and cauliflower; and at least 85 percent of the nation’s carrots, lemons, and avocados—all of which are experiencing extreme drought conditions, hampering supply.

Oklahoma is also experiencing severe drought conditions, posing a threat to beef supply. Beef production from is down by 6.9 percent since March 2013, and total cattle slaughter is down by 7.5 percent, according to the Oklahoma Farm Report.

Outsourcing Avenues
“We import a portion of the beef we consume,” wrote Tonsor in an email. “The beef we typically import is used ultimately in ground beef production (e.g. frozen lean beef imported from Australia).”

According to Tonsor, the extent to which food is imported varies by product, yet it is limited in many cases.

“Some products (such as beef) come from long biological production processes, making it challenging to change the situation quickly,” wrote Tonsor. “Importing products where available can ease the situation, but the world price of all products is impacted when major producers experience production challenges.”

With regard to beef, consumers are already seeing an impact of limited beef supply due to last year’s drought.

“When consumers walk in the grocery store, they are going to have to continue to juggle what they put in those baskets,” Tonsor said.