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Produce Prices Shooting Up

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Lemons and limes are pricier this winter. (CBS)

Lemons and limes are pricier this winter. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Paying for some of the freshest items at the grocery store is getting harder to stomach. Produce prices are doubling and in some cases nearly tripling the typical cost, CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports.

Winter is typically an expensive time for produce, but Mother Nature has been unkind to farmers on both coasts. That means you’ll have to part with more green when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables.

If anyone knows beans about produce prices, it’s wholesale supplier Peter Testa, who says the cost is about to “get out of control” over the next two to three months.

From green beans to carrots and limes, prices are already going bananas — and that’s just for the items shoppers can find. Strawberries are the toughest to find, Testa said from his Near West Side distribution center.

Strawberries are selling for $7 a pint at local stores, about double the typical winter price.

Green beans, at $2.49 a pound, are also twice as expensive. Limes at $1.49 a pound cost five times more than usual.

At 90 cents a pound, cabbage is two times its standard price. Ditto for green onions, kale and carrots. While consumers can simply walk away from higher prices, many restaurants have no choice but to pay up.

“When you got it on the menu you got a problem, because you can’t reprint menus — that’s a very expensive proposition,” Testa said.

Blame is all on intense rains in California that have turned farmlands into mud fields and a December freeze in Florida that decimated winter-ready crops. In the coming weeks, it will bump prices for tomatoes and bananas up by a third. 

Consumers could make lemonade out of these bitter prices, but lemons have also tripled in cost in recent weeks. 

There is a bright spot for consumers in the produce aisle. Blueberries were overgrown in Central and South America, so they are now selling for a buck a box — about half their typical price at this time of year.

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