Weather making produce prices spike

Published 01/28 2013 10:33PM

Updated 01/29 2013 09:53AM

URBANA -- Your power bill isn't the only place you might see a spike. Just take a walk down the produce aisle at a grocery store.

Freezing temperatures are ruining crops out west. But the effects are being felt in wallets across Central Illinois.

There are only a couple items that have jumped in price here at Common Ground Food Co-Op. But, it's not just a few cents or even a few dollars. Some items nearly doubled in price. And they're not coming down anytime soon.

"It's pretty amazing when you walk over to get your broccoli for your stir fry and two small heads of broccoli are $7," said store manager Jacqueline Hanna.

If that doesn't shock you, then you need to know the price should have been about half that. Common Ground Food Co-op gets its broccoli and cauliflower from California. But the crops were ruined after a week-long stretch of freezing nights.

"We haven't seen it impact this crop in a couple years. It's usually been the citrus the last couple years. It isn't really outside the norm, it's just every time it happens it's hard on farmers and it's hard on our pocketbooks," said Hanna.

"I'm a teacher, we don't have a whole lot of money," said Camille Griffin, of Champaign. "And if I'm going to come shop here, I'm careful about what I buy."

That means skipping her vegetable of choice if the price is too high. When asked if she'd buy the groceries on her list if they were double the price, she responded, "I might not pick it up today, I would just go for another green."

"We offer substitutions," added Hanna. "I love broccoli in my stir fry and I'm using bok choy right now because I can't afford the broccoli. Everyone has to make those choices themselves, we're offering substitutions and helping to educate them on why it's happening and letting them know that it won't be forever."

But it could be a little longer than customers are hoping for.

"If the weather stabilizes and doesn't continue to have frost, they still aren't going to see new crops for, you know, we might be several months before we really see prices come down," said Hannah.

Outside of broccoli and cauliflower, the co-op hasn't seen a jump in prices. The majority of its produce is grown locally or in parts of the world not dealing with frigid temperatures.

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