Have your favorite berries been scarce and pricey lately? You're not alone. A perfect storm of problems has negatively impacted farming across the USA, and even internationally.
If you have purchased raspberry products over the last few months, you likely noticed they may be hard to come by and, when you are able to source them, the prices are quite a bit higher than usual. It’s not surprising to learn the reason for this is simple: supply vs demand. But why are they so scarce? Turns out, there are several factors influencing current raspberry availability and cost, both environmental and economic.
Most raspberries grown in the United States come from the western area of Washington state. However, last year a record-breaking heat wave irreparably damaged the majority of the US raspberry crops. Immature berries were unable to ripen and burnt on the vine; the ripe and mature berries simply overheated and melted, like what may happen if they were left in a car in the summer heat. Compared to other berries, such as blueberries or even strawberries, raspberries are extremely delicate. The peak harvest time for raspberries is in July, when they have achieved the perfect balance of sweet yet tangy. With the intense heat wave occurring in June, resulting in multiple days with 100-degree weather, this was unable to occur, and the crops perished. Because berry growers were not able to harvest in a way that preserved the raspberries’ aesthetically pleasing appearance, the surviving raspberries were salvaged and turned into freeze-dried powder or raspberry puree, if the farmers were lucky.
The unseasonable heat wave is only one reason for the increase in raspberry prices. As mentioned earlier, raspberries are a soft, fragile berry. In fact, they are so fragile they must be harvested by hand. Bringing in pounds and pounds of berries by hand means substantial labor need and cost. Like many other industries, the agriculture business and raspberry growing in particular has been affected by pandemic labor shortages, resulting in shortfalls in production. There have been a few experimental “berry picking robots” coming out of Britain and other countries to help alleviate the growing expense of manual harvesting, but an effective broad-scope alternative has not been developed.
The current 2022 average pint of raspberries sells for $6.46, with the average price per pound landing at $8.49. This is 19% higher than the price per pound in 2020 ($7.12). A pint of Driscoll’s raspberries gives roughly 6 oz, which means consumers are paying a little over a dollar per oz for fresh berries. The limited growing and harvesting season also impacts the rising cost of raspberries. The optimal time frame is so narrow that, to keep up with national and worldwide demand, raspberries must be grown in green houses and artificial environments all throughout the year, adding to the overall cost, which gets passed down to the consumer. So, the next time you are in the grocery store and feel the price of raspberries is outrageous, just remember all of the effort, hard work, and labor it took to get them there.
Knkx.org Public radio, Pailthorp, Bellamy. 2021, June 29
Mashed.com, Morin, Tracy. 2020, March 24.
The Packer Farm Journal. (n.d.). Commodity: Raspberries. PNG. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from https://www.producemarketguide.com/produce/raspberries