Asparagus Prices Reflect Out-of-Whack Food Chain

Quartz: Veggie is cheap in the US because Mexico must send it here amid virus outbreak
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2020 11:46 AM CDT
Asparagus Prices Reflect Out-of-Whack Food Chain
A bundle of asparagus. Prices are low in the US, thanks to the coronavirus.   (Evan Abell/Yakima Herald-Republic via AP)

Dairy farmers dumping milk is just one sign of an out-of-sync food chain. Another is the low price of asparagus in the US, writes Chase Purdy at Quartz. The veggie generally sold for $3 a pound in early January, but the price dropped to $2 early this month. A buck a pound may not mean a huge difference on the micro level, but the drop nonetheless has "big implications" in the grand scheme of world food prices, writes Purdy. In this case, asparagus in the US is cheap because Mexico—a major world supplier of the vegetable—can no longer ship as much to Asia because of coronavirus restrictions. Instead, that excess asparagus is flooding the US market and driving down prices.

"To be sure, the overall impact of Covid-19 on the global food system has so far been minimal," writes Purdy, but he warns that could change fast. As CNN reports, conglomerates such as Nestle and Unilever are warning about a potential food crisis because the supply chain is international in scope. And at the UN, an agricultural agency is urging nations to work together to make sure that "global food security" remains stable amid the pandemic. "An unexpected and fast decline in commodity prices has hit producers while a strong depreciation of most currencies against the US dollar risks wiping out any price benefits for consumers: a combination that could potentially threaten global food security for some time to come," it states. (Read more food prices stories.)

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