One of the top stories trending in social media this week is the exorbitant price of cauliflower – in most North American grocery stores the cruciferous heads have skyrocketed to $5.99 each.
In fact, at one point, five heads of cauliflower actually cost more than a barrel of oil here in the Great White North.
Not so at a downtown grocery store – where the seasoned produce manager says it’s not about trends but more about a constant monitoring of weather conditions, related predictions and basing produce prices on a more even keel.
“The bottom line is to get the best produce for the best price,” explained Danny Ferraro from Ferraro Foods. “And it’s all about the weather and timing.”
When conditions, such as too much rain, slow the growth of a crop or too much sun ripens the product too quickly -that’s when consumers will notice shifting prices at the tills.
Or the opposite, an optimal forecast can lead to bumper crops and bins overflowing with a certain vegetable or fruit that can be sold at bottom dollar.
“When there is a problem (like with cauliflower the past two weeks), they raise the price to slow people from buying,” said Ferraro. “That way everyone will have cauliflower until the next crop becomes available.”
Another example is when Florida’s citrus crops were hit with below freezing temperatures a few years ago, and fresh fruit took a hit.
“The weather ruined the crops, and scarred the fruit,” Ferraro explained. “But they made more juice, so consumers may have noticed the price of fruit juice dropped. That’s how it all works.”
Each day, Ferraro continuously monitors updates on his computer and reads about weather conditions from Mexico, through California, Oregon and B.C. (depending on time of year) and notes predictions of when crops will mature or if weather will delay growth.
“Why is produce the way it is?” he said. “Weather – it all comes down to the weather.”
Where there’s a gap the price goes up to slow sales down, he added.
Ferraro Foods is an independent store so the outlets can work with many different suppliers and prices don’t often fluctuate to the extreme.
“Like celery, too much rain slows the growth,” said Ferraro, mentioning the product comes in washed, but lately it arrives with a build up of mud on the roots.
“It needs water but also needs sun and heat, which reflects in the price,” he reiterated, checking his inbox for the most recent weather updates and forecasts.
“My job is to make sure, using different suppliers, that we always can get the best quality and the best price. And it’s all based on weather.”