Produce prices jump after freeze

Freedom New Mexico: Alisa Boswell Freddy Canales, a Super Save employee in the produce department, stocks tomatoes and jalepenos Friday afternoon. Produce Manager Veronica Rodriquez said tomatoes recently increased by 10 cents due to the freezes in California and Mexico.

Alisa Boswell

This winter marked a harsh season for the tropical areas in and around the U.S., such as California, Florida and Mexico, causing a shortage in certain produce and a sharp spike in prices.

Mackenzie Kennedy, a senior at Eastern New Mexico University, said she had to switch to buying canned and frozen produce because fresh produce was so expensive. Kennedy, who is hypoglycemic, cannot eat fruit with sugar in it and finding canned fruit without sugar is no easy task.

“I’ve had to pick and choose,” Kennedy said. “I really had to watch it, because one week oranges were 10 cents and the next, they were 33 cents.”

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Lorenza Hernandez, owner of Kiko’s Produce in Clovis, said her business began four months ago and produce price increases have made for a difficult start.

“We’re just starting out and trying to establish ourselves and we can’t do that if we charge high prices,” Hernandez said. “We try to be competitive with prices, because there are a lot of options in town.”

She said her business gets most of their produce from Las Cruces, Amarillo, Texas, and El Paso, Texas, where produce is shipped from California and Mexico, among the hardest hit by hard recent freezes.

She said the weather mainly affected vegetable prices, but bananas, lemons and limes also increased in price. She said one of the biggest price increases was yellow and zucchini squash, which jumped by about 50 percent the beginning of February.

Hernandez said tomatoes, jalepenos and lettuce prices increased about 25 percent. She said her business increased their overall produce 12 to 25 cents during these price increases.

“We’re hoping that our distributors are able to give us better prices in the summer, because the crops will be better,” Hernandez said. “We try to get produce for quality and sell it for the best price we can.”

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Hernandez said some products have recently started to decline in price again, such as bananas, lettuce and squash. Lemons and limes are still a little high and avocados recently skyrocketed due to the most recent California freeze.

Veronica Rodriquez, produce manager for Super Save in Portales, said lettuce and bell pepper prices had the biggest impact on her store with lettuce jumping $20 to $25 a shipment. She said cucumbers have also jumped dramatically, going from 59 cents a cucumber to $1.39.

“These freezes going on are shortening product availability,” Rodriquez said. “It’s gonna take a while for us to come back to normal. We try to make our deals fair, but we still have to gain some sort of profit.”

She said the store had to order less of certain products due to prices and unavailability and had to order extra of other products to compensate for the shortage.

Rodriguez said lettuce on Thursday dropped from $2 a head to $1.39. As with Kiko’s, the exception is avocados — increasing 30 cents each — and tomatoes jumped by 10 cents each.

“As long as it’s moving, as long as I still have product on the shelf and I’m still ordering, we are doing good,” Rodriquez said. “We have a lot of people come here regardless and we appreciate that.”