California Fresh Fruit Association President Ian LeMay Discusses Inflation Impacts on Industry
FRESNO, CA - As the impacts are being felt across the United States, inflation has become a central topic of discussion. Early last month, our own Jordan Okumura sat down with California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) President Ian LeMay to dive further into the topic, going over critical input costs and additional impacts on the horizon for our industry.
Continuing to weigh in to highlight the changes inflicted by inflation on California’s agriculture, especially the stonefruit sector, LeMay recently released an op-ed in which the CFFA leader spotlights some critical statistics.
“As a united stonefruit industry who relies on agriculture, the time is now to understand that farming is in jeopardy, and the time is now to build a plan of financial sustainability and longevity,” said LeMay. “This is our S.O.S. to those who have long valued our industry. To all of our partners in the retail space, we need your support to ensure that fresh California peaches, nectarines, and plums have a place on kitchen tables for families across the country and the world to enjoy.”
In his article, LeMay discusses the challenges that growers and producers have dealt with, including the implementation of increased wages, with California leading the country at $15/ hour, a press release noted. LeMay also highlights the new standardized 40-hour workweek for agricultural employees, noting that back in 2018, the standard workweek was 60 hours.
Paying special attention to the stonefruit industry, the CFFA President noted that in California, the sector has faced an average 15 percent rise in costs each year for the past three years, resulting in a 45 percent rise in overall costs.
Across all categories, shipping costs have increased 100 percent over the last two years, while the cost of pallets has risen 50 percent, packaging by 20 percent, and sea freight by 50 percent.
In a follow-up comment to ANUK, LeMay shares how the pressures on the industry are truly compounding on themselves.
“In addition to the operational costs associated with growing stonefruit, our growers also find themselves headed into the third year of a crippling drought,” he points out. “We grow ‘permanent fresh fruit’ and cannot take a season off due to a lack of precipitation or a down market. Bloom has come for the 2022 season, leaves are beginning to shoot, and whether we like it or not, a new crop will set on the trees soon. This is, ultimately, a business, and my members have to cover their costs to sustain that business. If retailers and consumers want to preserve California stonefruit, then they must assist in sustaining that business.”
For the industry to remain viable, LeMay says that changes need to be made at the retail level. Increases have resulted in the overall production cost per box rising by $7.55 since 2019, the equivalent of $.42 per pound. Unfortunately, retail pricing, he states, has not increased at the same pace. Since 2019, retail pricing has only seen an increase of $2.88 per box or $.16 per pound.
To read LeMay’s article in its entirety and glean more insights from the leader, click here.
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