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ProduceIQ: Markets keep rising but high freight rates will limit demand

Overall produce markets continue to rise, though not as high in comparison to the average week before Thanksgiving.

The lack of reefer truck availability and extreme costs are having a dampening effect on demand.

ProduceIQ Index: $0.81/pound, +3.9 percent over prior week
Week #47, ending November 20th

Blue Book has teamed with ProduceIQ BB #:368175 to bring the ProduceIQ Index to its readers. The index provides a produce industry price benchmark using 40 top commodities to provide data for decision making.

Freight rates from West Coast growing regions to the East Coast are approximately 50 higher than normal levels. Interestingly, dry freight rates are so high that some produce drivers are turning off their reefer unit and hauling packages instead, another “Amazon effect” in action.

The additional $3-5 cost per case for delivered freight to already elevated F.O.B. prices is causing lower demand that prevents higher F.O.B. prices. Expect truck shortages to continue through Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Tropical fruit is falling, 5.1 percent lower, based on lower demand. Pineapple was mostly spared from storms in Costa Rica with only localized flooding. Though Costa Rican supply is light, Mexico’s volume is ramping up and should remain high. This category isn’t a Thanksgiving focus, and prices are generally lower at this time of year.

Melons have fallen from their highest end of the range to the lowest end. Prices normally rise during this time period, though supply is strong.

Cantaloupe and Honeydew from Mexico are in good quality, sugar levels, and availability. Watermelon has had low prices, though is increasing as current growing regions slow down before Southern Mexico begins after the New Year.

Melons fall from the top to the low end of their trading ranges.

Strawberries are on the rise, up 14 percent. Colder weather in California is limiting supply, and harvest regions are transitioning south to the border, Oxnard, CA, and into Mexico.

Though they are likely to descend again, Broccoli and Cauliflower are peaking prices for the 5th time this year, rising 31 percent. Lettuce & Leaf are also at highs, $0.77/pound.

Iceberg and Romaine remain in limited supply as the border town of Yuma, AZ starts production with decent quality.

Tomatoes, Beans and Squash rise again on the residual impact from Tropical Storm Eta. However, demand is lower from high freight rates and lower quality fruit conditions, including scarring squash from wind and impacts from excessive water.

Citrus has enjoyed seven weeks of record prices, though prices are anticipated to drop for Oranges.

Limes are running small and experiencing reduced crossings as the current region slows. Watch for increased prices on Limes.

We’ve seen 7 weeks of record high prices for the Citrus category.

ProduceIQ Index
The ProduceIQ Index is the fresh produce industry’s only shipping point price index. It represents the industry-wide price per pound at the location of packing for domestic produce, and at the port of U.S. entry for imported produce.

ProduceIQ uses 40 top commodities to represent the industry. The Index weights each commodity dynamically, by season, as a function of the weekly 5-year rolling average Sales. Sales are calculated using the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service for movement and price data. The Index serves as a fair benchmark for industry price performance.

Mark Campbell was introduced to the fresh produce industry as a lender for Farm Credit. After earning his MBA from Columbia Business School, he spent seven years as CFO for J&J Family of Farms and later served as CFO advisor to several produce growers, shippers and distributors. In this role, Mark saw the impediments that prevent produce growers and buyers to trade with greater access and efficiency. This led him to cofound ProduceIQ.