It’s interesting — and painful — to see how far the nation’s retailers, fighting the recession tooth and nail, will go to lure customers back into stores.

Warmer climate could pose challenges for crops
Andy Nelson
Markets Editor

In early August, I got an e-mail from Barnes & Noble offering any CD in stock for $8.99. That’s what I paid for vinyl in the early 1980s. Alas, it’s still too much for a cheapskate like me. If it comes down a bit more, however, that Buck Owens greatest hits collection is mine.

A Kansas City-area golf club is billing its new price sheet as a “stimulus package.” At $40 for a weekday round, it’s still got a ways to go before this ink-stained wretch feels sufficiently stimulated.

And then there are fresh cherries.

Granted, there are other than recessionary forces at work here. Washington has a ridiculously big crop this year — by far the biggest ever — and an expected late start limited Fourth of July promotions, meaning growers were faced with a lot of product to move fast.

But the penny-pinching consumer doesn’t care what the reasons are. Here in K.C., I’ve been paying around $2.50 per pound for rainiers and $2 for bings all summer. Last week, using my Price Chopper frequent-shopper card, the bings rang in at $1.49.

I doubt if there’s a Washington State shipper out there who could have foreseen a day when cherries were cheaper than some Evergreen State apples.

I’ve eaten so many cherries this summer, I’ll probably wind up like that girl in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” — only red instead of violet.

I’m enjoying it while I can. After all, who knows how much cherries will cost — with the added transportation, import, etc., charges — when they’re shipping from British Columbia, not Washington.

I know what you’re thinking: His brain’s as dense as a cherry pit.

You don’t hear much talk about global warming in the fresh produce industry. The only talk I’ve heard firsthand is from none another than a Washington fruit shipper, a couple of years ago at a convention.

He said he and colleagues had had serious discussions about the day when rising temperatures could push some Northwest fruit production into Canada.

Now comes a study from scientists at the University of California-Davis and the University of Washington that predicts chill hours in California are likely to fall by 50% sometime this century, making it impossible to grow many fruit and nut crops in the Golden State.

New varieties less reliant on cold winter temperatures could mitigate the problem, but the larger truth of this and other studies is clear: Barring an unforeseen turn of events, global warming will have a profound affect on the production of fresh fruits and vegetables — including here in the U.S.

The industry certainly has its hands full now with food safety and other front-burner issues. But it likely won’t be long before global warming finds itself near the top of produce’s to-do list.

But it’s summer. Don’t worry, be happy, and praise be to Washington for those sub-two-buck cherries.


What's your take on low retail prices and a warmer climate's potential effect on Northwest crops? Leave a comment and add your opinion.