The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) president Ian LeMay recently penned an op-ed highlighting the impacts of inflation on the state’s agriculture and specifically, stone fruit industry.
In the article, LeMay points out several staggering statistics, such as that producers have dealt with the implementation of increased wages that now lead the nation at $15 per hour along with a standardized 40-hour work week for agricultural employees. (He notes that just back in 2018, the standard work week was 60 hours.) The California stone fruit industry has faced an average of 15 percent rise in costs each year for the last three years, resulting in a 45 percent rise in overall costs. Shipping costs have increased by 100 percent over the last two years, cost of pallets up 50 percent, packaging up 20 percent and sea freight up 50 percent.
For the industry to remain viable, changes need to be made at the retail level. Increases have resulted in the overall production cost per box to increase $7.55 since 2019. This is equivalent to $.42 per pound. Unfortunately, retail pricing, LeMay notes, has not increased at the same pace. Since 2019, retail pricing has only seen an increase of $2.88 per box or $.16 per pound.
“As a united stone fruit industry who relies on agriculture, the time is now to understand that farming is in jeopardy and the time is now to build a plan of financial sustainability and longevity,” said LeMay. “This is our S.O.S. to those who have longed valued our industry. To all of our partners in the retail space, we need your support to ensure that fresh California peaches, nectarines and plums have a place on kitchen tables for families across the country and the world to enjoy.”
California is proud to be known as the “stone fruit state”. The industry continually makes huge investments in cultural production and administration practices to find new efficiencies to drive down costs in its operations without affecting quality and safety.
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