Folks who’ve been here for a while know I’ve used the “tag line” of “GIStemp, Dumber Than a Tomato”. Newbies can click on the “GIStemp” tab up top for an example.
Well, we had a cold spell a few weeks back. It froze all the way down to Mexico. Now the impact on tomatoes is being felt all over North America. This is just another example of the Tomato being a more truthful indicator of “climate change” than all the manipulated numbers in the world.
Now this event is NOT spectacular in any way. It happened a few decades back too. I have foggy memories of “ask for a tomato” on your Burger King and “no tomato salad bars”. It’s not real common, but it does happen.
The whole point of it is just that it IS mundane. Nothing has warmed up in decades. To the extent we had a few warm years (heck, maybe even a warm decade or two during the hot phase of the PDO) it’s all gone. We are right back at “plain old normal”. BUT having a cold cycle extreme that has frozen the tomatoes in Mexico.
Some sample stories:
Want A Tomato At Wendy’s, You Have To Ask.
Nick Needham Created: 2/16/2011 4:55:23 PM Updated: 2/16/2011 5:55:44 PM
National– Severe weather across Florida and Mexico has led to a shortage of tomatoes at area Wendy’s restaurants.
Kitty Munger, a spokesperson for Wendy’s told WFMY News 2, “Tomato crops were damaged by several freezes across the south back in December.”
On Feb. 10, Wendy’s nationwide started offering tomatoes on hamburgers and chicken sandwiches by request only.
So at Wendy’s it’s “By Request” only. How about “Sweet Tomatoes” without the tomato?
No Tomatoes at Sweet Tomatoes Restaurants? Mexico Freeze Causes U.S. Veggie Shortage
By: Erin Skarda
Veggie lovers, take note: You may be eating much less colorful (and even more expensive) salads in coming months.
Below-normal temperatures in Mexico, Florida and Texas earlier this year caused a deep freeze that’s negatively affecting the U.S. supply of many high-demand vegetables, such as delicious tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers. The veggie drought, which is expected to last until early April, is putting a major strain on the market, causing prices to rise and restaurants and grocers to scramble for other sources of these popular foods.
For instance, a Sweet Tomatoes restaurant in Waukegan, Ill., posted a sign Saturday saying, “Mother Nature Strikes Again,” and listed the veggies that are currently not being offered at the salad bar. Some of the chain’s locations are adding choices such as edamame, tofu and feta cheese to replenish items they’re currently missing.
Because of the inflated prices (the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange announced that prices for a 25-pound box of tomatoes has doubled in the past week),
OK, got that? “Below normal”. And that, my friends, is how a tomato is smarter than GIStemp. It KNOWS when things are colder than normal. As does, unfortunately, my wallet. I just got back from “Lucky’s Supermarket”. They are a “middle low end” grocery chain here. Not as high end as a Lunardi’s or the absolutely wonderful Italian grocery Cosentino’s (that has THE best vegetables bar none in the area), but not a Walmart either. About the same as the USA Chain “Safeway”.
They had a ‘special’ going on tomatoes, so I had to look. 97 Cents a pound, just under $1 a pound. For slightly green tinged OK tomatoes. Not TOO bad, I guess. But by the look of them they were of the slightly rubbery and tasteless variety. You could get tomatoes that looked somewhat better for $1.99 / pound. Oh heck, I’m just going to round up the odd penny or two. For $2 / pound you could get Roma “paste” tomatoes. At $3.69 they had some “on the vine” tomatoes (that also looked a bit green tinged and none too large) and then, the top of the heap, for $4 / pound you could get “Hothouse” tomatoes. Each one large and looking pretty good. I’d have given them another few days to ripen more, but they were clearly picked a bit on the green side to hold up better in shipping. OK, it’s the dead of winter. I ought not to complain about the cost of a real red tomato. But….
When tomatoes are running the same per pound as pork chops and about double to triple the price of whole chickens, something is not very warm in Mexico (or Texas or Florida or California for that matter, we do grow them here…).
A $4 / pound tomato is just NOT a result of warming, global or otherwise. Period. No way Jose. It is the result of large heating bills for a ‘hothouse’, just like a $3.69 tomato is the result of frost in Mexico.
The tomatoes are speaking, clearly, and they are saying “Baby it’s COLD outside!”
FEBRUARY 15, 2011
Freeze Hits Vegetables
Suppliers Scramble Following Cold in Mexico, Florida, Texas
By JULIE JARGON And ILAN BRAT
A major freeze in Mexico earlier this month has resulted in a shortage across the U.S. of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and other produce that could last until April and lead to higher prices at the grocery store.
Supermarkets, distributors and restaurant chains are scrambling to find other sources for the items and to offer replacements. But the problem has been compounded by the fact that inclement weather has also hit other growing regions, like Florida and Texas, that would normally be able to make up for a supply interruption from Mexico.
“It’s extremely unusual for more than one production area to experience abnormal weather in the same year. We are continuing to harvest tomatoes in Florida, but our current volume is maybe half of what it would normally be,” said Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, adding that a 25-pound box of tomatoes went from costing less than $15 to more than $30 in the past week.
Notice that the wholesale price has gone to over $1/pound for generic tomatoes. I can expect those $1 Lucky’s tomatoes to rise in price in coming weeks.
Supervalu Inc., the U.S.’s fourth-largest food retailer by sales behind leader Wal-Mart Stores Inc., is girding for lower availability of some key vegetables because of the deep freeze, Mexico’s worst in more than 50 years. Dan Bates, director of merchandising for the Eden Prairie, Minn., company’s produce division, said that in the last 10 days he has seen the price of peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and eggplant rise and that the grocer may pass along some of those costs to shoppers.
“It’s been kind of the perfect storm of problems this year,” Mr. Bates said. “It’s the first time I remember every area having the same problem at the same time.”
So, a 60 year cycle flops and golly, it’s like it was the last time were were in about this part of the cycle… Just like the late 1990s were almost exactly the same as the 1930s (only a bit cooler).
Can you say “Cyclical Weather is not Climate”? There, I knew you could…
Some Notes on Grains
While they do find a general reduction in total grain production compared to prior years, it is not an outrageous amount. Even with a small amount of inelastic demand, prices ought not to be as high, IMHO, as they are. Either there is a lot of ‘hidden buying’ going on, or there is some speculative excess in here. Again, just in my opinion.
International grain and oilseed prices advanced strongly in December and again in January, with some values at their highest for two years. However, export prices remained below the peaks recorded early in 2008. While there has been little fundamental change in the overall supply and demand balance in the past two months, markets were driven higher by concerns about supplies of quality milling wheat and the tightening outlook for maize and soyabeans. The influence of other commodities, including crude oil, also featured regularly on the major exchanges. For wheat, reports that the extremely wet conditions in eastern Australia would render at least one-third of the country’s large wheat crop unfit for flour milling were especially bullish. More recently, better prospects for US exports and a winter wheat acreage report showing a smaller than expected rise in Hard Red Winter wheat plantings further triggered buying.
So as I read that, it’s looking like a bit of reduction of supply, but mostly a whole lot of worry. But as we will see below, some of that worry is showing up as China buying.
China was among several recent customers for Australian feed grade wheat. For maize, there were worries about a reduced official US carryover forecast as well as about whether plantings for the next crop would be sufficient to prevent stocks falling further in 2011/12. The impact of dryness, attributed to the La Niña event, on Argentina’s upcoming harvest added to the market’s nervousness. Similarly, despite quite ample current stocks, US soyabean prices moved higher, initially because of continued heavy demand from China but more recently due to a lower official US supply estimate and strength in crude oil. Rice export prices also increased, but while Thai values in late-December climbed to a ten-month peak, they subsequently fell back as the main crop harvest advanced.
IMHO, a big part of this is just China buying as it has some dollars to dump and some empty silos at home. When the China buy ends, and the next crop is ‘pending’, watch out for a drop in prices.
They also have some interesting numbers in charts. They break it out by type of grain, but include this ‘total grains’ chart:
Year 06/07 07/08 08/09 09/10 10/11 (two forecasts) Production 1588 1697 1802 1793 1725 1726 Trade 222 239 249 240 241 242 Consumption 1629 1684 1724 1762 1786 1787 Carryover stocks 282 295 373 404 340 342 year/year change -40 +13 +78 +31 -62 Major exporters** 116 112 152 162 105 104
Notice that “carryover” estimate year/year change. DOWN at -62 (million tons) After 3 years of adding to carryover, we’re dropping. But notice too that we’re not down at 282 like in 06/07, we’re still up at 300+ range. This is not a time to panic, it’s just market dislocations, IMHO. The “biggest deal” is most likely that drop in ‘major exporters’ from 162 to the 105 range right when China is making new buys (along with many in the Middle East to placate hungry protesters…) While the total grain production / consumption is not so far out of whack, the percentage available in the ‘export’ market is down from the last two ‘bumper years’ to a bit below what it was before.
So by my read, yeah, we’ve got some minor supply impacts. Probably due to cold and drought. But at the same time we’ve got a reduction in traded grains just as China is buying more. That the EU and USA are burning grain instead of drilling holes in the ground probably doesn’t help. But what’s a little global unrest, death, destruction, collapse of countries, and the threat of W.W.III when you can give a crop subsidy to Iowa?
The “bottom line” is pretty simple. In a warming world, crops that need extra heat to grow would be growing better. Cotton is heat loving. I can just barely get it to set bolls IFF I start it very early and have a warm year. I didn’t even try this past year as it was just too cool. In a warming world, the price of cotton would be falling as cotton would flourish. Instead we have cotton running higher in a parabolic blow off to the moon:
Tomatoes would be going great guns. Tomatoes just LOVE heat, but will not set fruit below 50 F for most varieties, so cool nights kill yield. You don’t get a doubling of normal prices in a warming world.
You can watch other heat loving crops too. Peppers, for example. And Eggplant. In a cooler world, their prices will rise. In a warming world, they would drop.
So, want to know what’s going on with “30 year average of weather”? Don’t ask GIStemp (or HadCRUT or NOAA / NCDC or any of the other data manipulators). Just ask your grocer for some quite time in the vegetable section. The tomato knows…