Organic demand could exceed supply - The Packer

Organic demand could exceed supply

11/06/2013 02:04:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

Demand for organic produce continues to climb steadily, causing some growers to be concerned about whether supply will be sufficient in coming years.

In some cases, low supply could even inhibit the category’s growth.

“The biggest impediment to the category’s growth is production itself,” said Roger Pepperl, marketing director of Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash.

“We’re seeing demand increase at a faster rate than production,” he said.

Pepperl said this trend is especially common with new apple varieties.

“People are going to have to convert more conventional orchards to organic to catch up, but supply and demand will be out of check in the meantime,” he said.

That situation could raise organic apple prices for the new trendy varieties.

Organic apple supplies also could see an even more drastic shift in supply and demand depending on what happens with the use of oxytetracycline for controlling fire blight in orchards.

“That issue will have a little bit of an effect on supply if there is no alternative by then,” said Paul Newman, organic salesman for Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, Wenatchee, Wash.

Other growers are also a bit concerned about the organic supply.

The kale category has seen a tremendous increase in popularity with new uses such as chips and juices.

Earl Herrick, owner of Earl’s Organic Produce, San Francisco, said that category growth has pressured some growers to reorganize their production acreage.

“We work with growers to expand or allocate more acreage to take care of those needs,” Herrick said.

In addition, other growers are starting to work with kale.

“More growers are committing acreage to kale,” he said.

In some cases, “hot” organic items, such as kale or chard, are dictated by what growers can supply.

“I think those trends are dependent on developing items that can be farmed organically, effectively. The items that aren’t developing as quickly in the market are the ones that are more difficult to grow,” said Scott Mabs, chief executive officer of Homegrown Organic Farms, Porterville, Calif.

Diane Dempster, organic specialist for Seattle-based wholesaler Charlie’s Produce, said she has seen some supply shortages as a result of growing demand.

“Sometimes those shortages are weather-related, but there have been times with excessive demand on certain products that there hasn’t been enough to go around,” Dempster said.

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