Fruit and vegetable prices respond differently to oil price increases based on shipping route and carrier
Fresh fruit and vegetable prices are among the most volatile U.S. retail food prices. One potential source of this volatility is the price of oil, as fresh fruits and vegetables often travel long distances from field to consumer. ERS researchers found that the impact of oil price increases on wholesale produce prices depends on both the commodity shipped and the route traveled. A hypothetical doubling of oil prices would be expected to increase wholesale prices of the 6 commodities studied—asparagus, cantaloupes, bell peppers, grapes, oranges, and tomatoes—by 3 to 27 percent depending on the origin of the commodity. Generally, wholesale prices of produce grown in the United States, Canada, and Mexico are more sensitive to changes in oil prices since produce grown in North America is shipped primarily by truck, which has relatively high fuel costs per pound of produce. Fresh fruit and vegetables from South and Central America are more likely to be shipped by plane or boat, which are less fuel-intensive modes of transportation. This chart appears in “Impact of Oil Prices on Produce Prices Depends on Route and Mode of Transportation” in ERS’s Amber Waves magazine, released February 3, 2014.
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