Food prices on the rise, local wholesaler explains what’s behind the price hike
COLUMBIA (WOLO): One year into a crushing pandemic, and food prices continue to rise after a 3.9% increase in 2020 from 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects another increase of 2 or 3% for food prices in 2021.
Local wholesaler, Senn Brothers Produce President Gregg Senn says, “nobody really understands in our business where your food comes from. Everybody thinks it’s grown, we pull a lever, and it falls out of a machine.”
But the process behind it all is much more complex. Wholesalers like Senn Brothers Produce travel across the country to buy from farmers, to then sell and distribute to local retailers. Now gas prices are eating at everyone’s disposable income.
“When fuel goes up, it’s a domino effect. So it affects everything. It affects everything from the farmer and the tractor to the fertilizer to the plastic hamper you put the product in, and it just drives the cost up on all your products,” explains Senn.
Senn says in the last year, they’ve seen a nearly 3-thousand dollar increase in freight rates, which equates to about 3 dollars more per package. And South Carolina’s winter weather doesn’t make business any easier, forcing them to travel out west.
“Your lettuce, your broccoli, your cauliflower, your celery, all that comes from out there. When we’re in the dead winter, you get all your products from out there, you have to ship it from all the way across the country so it costs more money,” says Senn.
Some are already feeling the effects on their wallets, like University of South Carolina student, Joshua Salley, who says he’s noticed an increase in produce. “I typically shop for a lot of fruits and healthier foods, and there’s been a gradual increase in produce prices. I’m a college student so it doesn’t really help me very much.”
But Senn thinks South Carolina is still pretty lucky. “We always seem to do very good. We never do this, or this. We always kind of just dip a little bit, so we’re a very good state.”