Is There a Cranberry Shortage as the Holiday Season Approaches?

Mohit Oberoi, CFA - Author

Nov. 23 2021, Published 8:50 a.m. ET

There have been intermittent shortages of some food products, especially on a local level. Some foods have seen a seasonal spurt in demand, which includes turkey and cranberries. There have been supply bottlenecks in some of the food products ahead of Thanksgiving and the holiday season. Are cranberries also in short supply?

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There have been fears of a widespread food shortage in the U.S. These fears are mainly misplaced even though some food products have been hard to find at grocery stores.

Various food shortages have surfaced before Thanksgiving.

There have been reports of a shortage of several food products like turkeys, bakery pies, sweet potatoes, and cranberries. However, most of the shortages haven’t been severe. Turkey is a good example. There isn't a broad-based turkey shortage. While smaller birds have been hard to find, there are plenty of large turkeys available.

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Food prices have been going up.

You don't need to watch the monthly inflation data to gauge the steep rise in prices. Thanksgiving and holiday shopping will give you a good enough idea that food prices have been going up sharply. American Farm Bureau estimates that a classic Thanksgiving feast for 10 will cost $53.31 or less than $6 per person in 2021, which is 14 percent higher than 2020.

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The rise in prices is over twice the headline CPI inflation that's released every month. Food and fuel have been among the biggest contributors to the rising inflation. The latter has a domino effect on inflation. Higher oil prices lead to higher logistic costs and by its extension higher prices for most goods.

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The labor shortage situation and the rise in costs of packaging products are also adding to food inflation. In most cases, producers were left with few options but to pass on higher prices to buyers through price hikes.

Is there a cranberry shortage?

Cranberry production in Wisconsin, which is the biggest cranberry producer in the country, got hit by bad weather conditions earlier in the year. More than a shortfall in production, supply chain issues are taking a toll on the cranberry supply.

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Ocean Spray, which is a cooperative of more than 700 farms, has flagged concerns about the availability of cans that are used to transport the fruit. The company has had to use different cans but it won't fully solve the problem. Ocean Spray CEO Tom Hayes thinks that some buyers might have to settle for fresh cranberries this Thanksgiving.

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Speaking with GMA, he said, “My advice is to be absolutely flexible. Whether it's jellied, whole or fresh cranberries.” Hayes advised that buyers "Plan early and make sure you get to the grocery store. It will be a happy Thanksgiving, but you have to demonstrate more flexibility than you have in the past."

When will the supply chain issues end?

The supply chain issues have been compounded by shortages of truck drivers as well as overcrowded ports. However, things might get better in 2022. Demand growth is expected to taper down and the supply of most goods should revert to normalized levels. For now, get used to seeing your favorite products running out of shelves at the grocery stores.


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