Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Ongoing Pumpkin Shortage

I was wondering the other day why canned pumpkin is hard to come by. I was aware of a pumpkin shortage for the past couple years, and noticed that while supplies were made available for Thanksgiving, they quickly vanished from store shelves. With a little research, I came across this article Jerry Hirsch last November:
Recent heavy rains in the Midwest are putting pumpkin pie in short supply this holiday season. On Tuesday, food giant Nestle, which controls about 85% of the pumpkin crop for canning, issued a rare apology and said that rain appeared to have destroyed what remained of a small harvest this year and that it expected to stop shipping the holiday staple by Thanksgiving...

Nestle says that once it runs out, it won't have more pumpkin to can until August, when the 2010 harvest starts. This year's shortage started several months ago and was the result of Libby's not having much surplus from the 2008 crop as a carry-over to sell in September. Nestle said in October that it expected the shortage to ease as the 2009 harvest got underway.
This explains the initial cause of the shortage, but why the continuance? I attribute the shortage to one reason - price control.

Supermarkets like Albertsons had not planned to increase the price of the product for the holidays. With demand being extremely high, product was wiped out almost as quickly as it was put to the shelf. While supplies may have lasted throughout the holidays, they ran dry shortly after the holiday, allowing the cycle to repeat. I am sure Nestle has a surplus greater then when it entered the 2009 season, but if stores do not alter their price accordingly, they will be the ones facing a shortage because customers will stock up.

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