Why Is Fresh Fruit So Expensive?

You have made your weekly trip to the grocery store. The line at the checkout number 3 is not long, so you pull your cart into the line. You can’t resist a candy bar and you throw a Snickers into your cart.  

The checkout person scans your groceries. You are a little nervous because you only have a hundred dollars. The total is looking manageable until she rings up the fruit. Suddenly you are over one hundred dollars and ask for her to take off the fruit from the total. 

Fruit is so expensive because of supply and demand. On the supply side, fresh fruit is expensive because it has to be shipped great distances and it is perishable. On the demand side, shoppers crave fresh fruit because it is healthy and tastes great.  

Fresh Fruit has to be Transported Long Distance

Fresh fruit is seasonal and locally grown fruit is not always available. For example, fresh peaches are harvested in Colorado in late summer. The price of peaches falls because there is an abundant supply. But if you want a peach in winter time, it has to be imported from Mexico or Chile.

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Shipping fresh fruit long distances is expensive. Fruit is perishable and if the conditions on the boats that bring the fruit aren’t optimal, spoilage occurs. If the fruit is being imported, there are delays for inspection.  The price of the fruit increases because of taxes. 

Oranges are an interesting example of how spoilage can affect shipping. If one orange spoils, the adjacent oranges in the shipment will also spoil. This adds up to a lot of oranges that get wasted, and this wastage increases the price of the fruit.  

Some Fresh Fruits Grow in the Tropics and Need to be Imported

Have you even been able to plant a pineapple in your garden? Pineapples require a lot of water and high tropical temperatures. These conditions only exist in the tropics. Most pineapples that we eat grow in Hawaii or other tropical countries such as Costa Rica.  The only way they arrive in the mainland United States is by boat.

What Are Some Fruits We Eat That Need to be Imported?

  1.  Avocados
  2.  Bananas
  3.  Grapes
  4.  Cranberries
  5.  Raspberries
  6.  Blackberries, 
  7.  Mulberries
  8.  Loganberries
  9.  LImes
  10.  Pineapples
  11.  Mangos
  12.  Watermelons
  13.  Cantaloupe

This is only a partial list. And it does not include vegetables. This is an enormous amount of fruit that needs to be transported, and transportation adds to the cost.

Some Fresh Fruits are Expensive because of Labor Costs

Have you seen the price of strawberries lately? A small container costs upwards of five dollars!  They are pricey fresh morsels of pleasure because they are small and difficult to harvest.

Strawberries are picked by hand. In the United States, migrant workers pick most of the strawberries that grow primarily in California. Migrant workers toil for low wages, but labor shortages have increased the amount that fresh fruit pickers get paid.  

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How would you like to work under the scorching sun all day? Picking strawberries is physically demanding labor. The pickers must be bent over nearly all day. Surely these laborers deserve to be paid a fair wage.  And by earning a fair wage, the cost of the product goes up.

Placing the Fresh Fruit in the Local Supermarket’s Produce Section is Time Intensive

Workers in the produce section stack the fruit so nicely at the local supermarkets. It is a time-consuming job to organize such a large quantity of fruit. If just one orange or apple falls on the floor, they have to throw it away.  This adds to the amount of fresh fruit that is wasted.

The wages that supermarket workers make have traditionally been low. However, because of recent labor shortages, grocery workers have been able to demand higher wages. With the costs of labor going up in so many sectors, it is inevitable prices will rise.

Inflation for the price of fruit has exceeded the national average for the past several years. In 2021, the base inflation rate in the United States was around 6%.  That means that the price of your fresh fruit has gone up over 6% in only one year!

Natural Disasters Frequently Ruin Fresh Fruit Crops

Every once in a while, a cold snap in Florida will ruin the citrus crop. In that case, oranges and grapefruits need to come from other sources. This puts a limit on the supply of oranges, and the price can go up significantly. 

Likewise, hurricanes and floods can ruin crops of fresh fruit in tropical countries.  This makes the prices of imported fruits go up.  

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Natural disasters are becoming more frequent and severe because of global warming. Climate change is already influencing the price of fresh fruit, and this effect will increase as climate change worsens.

Fresh Fruits are more Scarce because Local Communities Grow Less

Fresh fruit used to be grown in local communities.  However, space to grow crops has been decreasing because of urbanization.  Much of the land that used to grow apples or peaches is now covered with housing developments. Lack of land to grow fresh fruits contributes to the increase in cost.

Consumer Demand for Fresh Fruits is Already High and Growing

You have heard the adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” To a certain extent, the adage is true. Fresh fruits contain the vitamins and minerals that people need to stay healthy.  As consumers get more health conscious, the demand for fresh fruits goes up.

Restaurants use a high proportion of fresh fruits.  They demand the highest quality of fruit, which drives up prices at the local grocery store.

How Can You Avoid Paying High Prices for Fresh Fruit

  1. Only buy fruits that are locally grown and in season.
  2. Substitute fresh fruit for canned fruit
  3. Substitute fresh fruit for frozen fruit
  4. Look for deals on freeze dried fruit. 
  5. Consume your fresh fruit promptly to eliminate spoilage.
  6. Eat more vegetables

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Conclusion

The price of fresh fruit is high and is only going higher. High demand, high transportation costs, and growing wages in the grocery industry all contribute to the increase in prices.  You can avoid paying high costs by substituting fresh fruit for canned or frozen, or by buying locally grown fruit that is in season.