(Feb. 11, STAFF EDITORIAL) Very few industries are immune from a recession as deep and wide as the one in which the U.S. is now mired.

It remains to be seen how much produce will be affected, but there’s reason for optimism. Two recent reports seek to gain at least a few insights into that million-dollar question.

A late December survey conducted by the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association found consumers eating at least the same amounts of 14 of 15 top-volume fruits and vegetables as they did six months ago.

Potatoes, onions, bananas, carrots, lettuce and apples are among the most “recession-proof” commodities at retail, according to the PMA poll.

The second report, conducted by the West Dundee, Ill.-based Perishables Group, found total fresh produce dollar sales per store in November were up about 4% over the year before at the same time.

That may not last, however, as more retailers sell staples on ad in an effort to attract cash-strapped consumers to the produce department.

Regardless of which direction the numbers from those two studies head, there are things retailers should and shouldn’t do if they want to weather the recession.

On the “not to do” list is raising prices too much on some produce items to counter the discounts on others. Retailers who try that will soon learn their customers aren’t as gullible as they thought.

On the “to do” list, retailers would be wise to keep the marketing focus on those items most likely to do well — staples.

Offering multiple price-points can reach different levels of financially distressed consumers. Retailers, and the produce industry, can’t afford to lose shoppers to the center store because of percieved value.

From the supply side, grower-shippers and commodity boards should work with buyers on promotions for staples to keep product moving.

Consumers don’t want to abandon the produce department. Don’t give them an excuse to do so.