Tough Choices for Farmers
Weather in the Strawberry Fields
Granite State ECO 512
The weather affects people every day in their daily plans and in safety. One area that weather plays big a role that is not typically considered is in food supplies. Consumers go to the store and get what they want so easily. The prices fluctuate and if some consumers really want a product they purchase it regardless of price. Other consumers will forgo an item if it reaches a certain price. Thought is generally not given to what a producer must endure before they can supply consumers with a product. Two recent articles touched on the battle strawberry farmers had this past season when the weather conditions were in-line for optimal growth of the fruit.
Perfect weather conditions forced strawberry growers in Queensland Australia to destroy more crops than they harvested. Instead of a steady growth of strawberries all season long the farmers received their entire crop at one time. This unwanted occurrence placed the farmers in a difficult position. Over 200 strawberry farmers with literally millions of strawberry plants producing all at once meant a flood of the market. Farmers struggled with the decision to plow under a majority of their crop in order to get what was fresh to the market on time. In addition farmers attempted to plant new strawberries to balance out the rest of the season. This risky move requires a lot from Mother Nature as far as the remainder of the strawberry season is concerned. Combine this with other variables such as new competition in the market and the fact that farmers could only stand by and watch the prices drop drastically. Not only can the weather conspire to control the “end price” for the grower but supermarket chains decide the growers’ profits by the price they pay. This occurrence resulted in the 2013 strawberry season recording a 30 year low for berry prices.
The farmers are producing strawberries which are a product. The farmers are selling their strawberries to supermarkets for money. The supply or quantity producers sell in 2013 varied greatly from last year due a supply shifter in this case: the all at once arrival of the crop. The supply curve can be seen when comparing each year quantities and timing of the strawberry harvest. In 2013 the supply schedule was not spread out as evenly as it had been in previous years. In the past consumers were able to purchase limited fresh berries each week at relatively the same- ( higher than 2013) but steady prices. Supermarkets accommodated the flood of strawberries. However with the abundance of potentially rotting fruit the prices went down. PED was apparent by the consumer’s response to the lower prices, again the delicacy of the product made any chance of profit to the farmers small. The farmers did what they could to supply consumers with a product. The farmers knew that they could not pay the labor with the money that they would make by selling an over abundance of their product at one time. Essentially the farmers would pay labor for 5 times as long to harvest 5 times as much fruit and sell the fruit for 5 times less money. The example of PES did not favor the producers. The farmer’s response to the price change was disappointing to the farmers who supply the produce and a benefit to the consumers who purchased the fruit at a 30 year low. Here is also an example of how the delicacy of a product affects the law of supply. When the fruit was priced higher in previous years the quantity was steady. Again when the fruit prices were lower the supply was higher, which breaks the law of supply. Perishables must fall into an exception category and possibly have a different set of laws of economics? In the case of the strawberry farmer producing more at one time means less profit.
Elizabeth Marx, September 16, 2013 Bumper Crop not so Sweet as Growers Destroy Berries
Queensland Ink- The Currier Mail http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/viewer.aspx
Sandra Godwin, September 11, 2013 Strawberry Glut Hits Prices