Food costs remain stable despite arctic temperatures

ALPENA – Severe drought, freezing temperatures and bad weather are causing havoc across the nation, but food prices are expected to remain stable for a while, Alpena grocers said Thursday.

“It’s a little early to tell right now,” James Butch, owner of Consolidated Fruit Distributors, said. “The prices are fairly reasonable on produce coming out of California.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the wet season got off to a poor start. Parts of California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington are experiencing drought conditions, which are expected to continue through April.

“As it gets toward spring and summer it’s going to possibly affect those crops,” Butch said.

Peaches and apricots also could be affected.

Cold weather also has been a hurdle for some growers, he said.

“Florida’s had some cold weather affecting the strawberry pricing,” Butch said. “When it gets cold like that, they have to strip the plants in the field until they start blossoming again.”

Across the nation, winter also has had an impact – sometimes in unexpected ways.

“It’s definitely hard shipping in this weather,” Butch said. “You have to take some extra care when you ship out the door. Things have to be covered, but it’s more of an inconvenience than anything.”

At Neiman’s Family Market, Store Director Ray Werda said it’s still a little too early to tell what kind of impact drought conditions will have on produce.

“I haven’t heard anything from our suppliers,” he said. “I’m sure that it’s going to have an impact in the future, but right now prices are normal.”

Snow and cold have hurt the distribution system, so products aren’t always getting to where they need to go, he said.

Although customers won’t notice, the store is out of stock on 50 to 75 products, Werda said. Normally, this time of year that number is 10 to 20 items. But there have been no complaints.

Manufacturing plants also are affected by the cold, contributing to occasional shortages, he said.

Sixteen-ounce bottles of liquid Coffee Mate is one example.

A Nestle plant in Anderson, Ind., had to shut down temporarily after a domino effect of equipment problems and extreme temperatures caused pipes in its cooling towers to freeze and break, said Werda, referring to a memo he received. The weather also delayed repairmen trying to reach the plant safely.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693.

Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.