Fall Produce Prices on the Rise

4:13 PM, Sep 18, 2012   |    comments
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GASPORT, NY- If you've gone to the grocery store or farmer's market for apples lately, you know you're paying more. But some growers are calling this the worst season for apples ever.

Go to Becker Farms in Gasport at the start of Fall and most years the apple orchard looks like a sea of red. This year it's not uncommon to find one lonely apple hanging from a tree.

"A normal tree would have 100-200 apples on it, a dwarf or semi-dwarf tree. And this year we've picked 6 to 10 off each tree," said Melinda Vizcarra, partner at Becker Farms.

The quantity and quality is so bad Vizcarra says for the first time ever, she had to make the painful decision to cancel the very popular U-Pick apples for families.

"We would love to have a u-pick if we had the crop but we just don't have the apples," she said.

The problem isn't just here, it's statewide, and it's all because of the very warm March, followed by a deep frost.

"[The trees] were in full bloom at the end of April which is a full two weeks early. The last three nights in April it got below 25 [degrees], and three nights in a row of that cold weather really damaged 90 percent of the flowers," said Vizcarra.

With short supply and high demand, consumers will feel it in the wallet. At Becker Farms last year, a half bushel of apples was $12. Now it's $20. A full bushel was $20, and now it is $30. And a gallon of apple cider went up from $4.50 last year to $8.99 this year.

The prices of cherries and peaches have also skyrocketed. Becker Farms didn't even buy any peaches to sell this year.

Most farmers are raising prices not to make a profit, but just to stay afloat. "Apples are our largest crop so it's a big hit. And it's really devastating for farmers that are apple growers primarily," said Vizcarra.

This summer's drought made irrigation a necessity for other fall crops, like pumpkins, which are bountiful and ready for picking.

"Our raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and pumpkin crop are good for the most part, but then again it was an increased input, the cost of irrigation," she said.

And that cost, once again, trickles down. Pumpkins everywhere will be more expensive. At Becker Farms they used to be 39 cents per pound, now they 49 cents. The U-Pick season for pumpkins at Becker Farms is continuing as usual. 

We talked to the spokeswoman for Wegmans and she says they have 25% to 50% fewer apples right now, and they'll be even harder to come by in the Spring.

As for grapes, the hot and dry weather has been great for grapes for wine, but grapes for eating, juicing and jam, aren't doing so well. One grower tells us grapes from the Finger Lakes are down 70 ton this year.

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