Why do they ship Californian fruit to Texas?

In my local market in Texas, I see oranges and strawberries from both California and Texas. There’s no shortage of either kind, and as far as I can tell, they are interchangeable in price and quality. Yet, someone had to burn fossil fuels and expend time and money to transport some of the fruit halfway across the country. Are Texas fruit being shipped to California?

On the surface, it seems like a colossal waste and I’m sure a lot of the fruit doesn’t even get sold. How high does fuel prices need to get before this becomes impractical?

If you’re a California producer, and you can sell fruit in Texas for above your production cost, then why not? Sure the Texas producers make more selling at the same price, but a lower profit is better than no profit.

$3.873 per gallon.

I see a huuuuge difference in quality. Texas fruit sucks ass. Texans are soooo proud of their little tiny citrus fruits, rock like peaches, and inedible sweet onions which can’t hold a candle to real Florida oranges, Georgia peaches, or Vidalias. California fruit isn’t great but I’ll tkae it over Texas stuff anyday…

But even now AS WE SPEAK you can go two miles down the road and pick beautiful, sweet, amazing strawberries. Why do you California people send us your inferior fruit? Why, when I go to the grocery store, are there no South Carolina strawberries? None at all?

According to this article, California is importing the same fruits it exports.

Well, perhaps the Bear Flag Republic and the Lone Star Republic have a treaty providing for mutual trade in fruits. Or it could be that pesky Interstate Commerce Clause in the constitution, that permits people and businesses anywhere in the United States to sell their wares anywhere else in the country subject only to Federal regulations, not local ones.

Perhaps some Texas consumers perversely prefer California fruit to the homegrown variety. Perhaps California growers are able to produce at a low enough production cost that they can afford to pay the freight charges to ship it to Texas, or even Florida, to compete with the native product.

The final answer to “Why do people do the things they do?” is “Because they can. Because they choose to, and there is nothing (legal, moral, economic, etc.) stopping them from doing so.”

California gets plenty of fruit from Chili and New Zealand.
And Florida oranges.
The world is getting smaller every season.

I go to the grocery store 1 or 2 times per week in Texas. It seems that most times I go, the fruits and veggies are from a different place. One week the grapes are from California, a few days later grapes from Chile are on display, then the next week they are from Mexico, etc.

I guess the fruit and veggie buyer has to choose on a daily basis from what is out there and finds the right combination of quality vs. cost. I am guessing that the guy selling the California stuff is putting forth a good sales pitch. One of my neighbors from a few years back was a vegetable broker who specialized in cabbage (crazy, huh?). From what he told me, he would call the suppliers (farmers, co-op reps, produce terminal operators), somehow secure a truckload or three, then would try to find a buyer, and then try to figure out how to get it there. Othertimes he would have a buyer and would have to go out and find what the buyer needed. He was a cabbage contractor.

Another obvious reason is that sometimes the local crop is not plentiful or there is not a lot of good quality stuff (usually because of not enough rain or rain at the wrong time). This happens and we might not even know it. The grocery store has got to get it from somewhere.

This sounds like the crops are coming to fruition at different times in different places, so as time goes on the grocery store gets the fruit and veggies from wherever it is in season.

I’ll take a 1015 over a Vidalia anyday.

Crazy economy. In Europe we get asparagus from Peru, flowers from Kenya and South America, apples and what not from South Africa, and in the southern Hemisphere winter, Chile imports peaches from Greece… The list can get longer. All of that by air cargo of course.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to eat locally-grown fruit and vegies in season? Think of all the savings in gas and labor. Why do we truck and fly stuff all around the world? I could do without peaches in December and brussels sprouts in August. This is an expensive, wasteful way of doing things.

I could do without Brussels sprouts any month, but it is defining characteristic of Civilization. We are not bound by the seasons, and we can afford to do it, so we do. Going back to only eating what is in season locally, and you might as well go back to killing all of your own meat and growing all of your own veggies. Good luck with that.

More sense to who? Farming is a business. If there was any possibility that a farmer, grower, shipper, or broker could make more money selling their product locally they would do it. It is simple economics. The product follows the money.

Here in central California, the joke is that the only way to get high quality fruits and vegetables is to know someone who grows them (or the farmer’s market). Most of the highest grade stuff is immediately shipped out because it commands such a high price elsewhere. In fact, with oranges the highest grade is simply called Export because none of it even stays in the country.

You can read some arguments for eating locally produced food on Michael Pollan’s blog (registration might be required) on the New York Times’ website. In particular, read the entry for May 17. The entry for May 24 has some useful links. He’s the author “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

Why limit yourself to eating foods when they’re in-season? It’s usually cheaper and tastes better. Sure, I can get peaches in December in Arkansas, but they’re rock-hard and taste terrible. And I’m going to pay at least 2 bucks a pound for them.

It’s not only fruit and veg. The UK which still has coal reserves imports coal from Australia, South Africa, the USA ,and Poland. In spite of the long distances for this heavy commodity the economics must still make sense.

There are California navels in my fruit ‘n’ veg right now. It makes no sense to me, since there are perfectly acceptable local oranges for sale more cheaply.

It’s not just that. The UK imports coal largely to meet SO2 emissions as well. Coal quality is extremely variable and the UK coals tend to be much higher sulfur than the coals they import.