Nationwide shortages impact produce availability on campus

Two unrelated acts of nature are currently affecting the availability of certain varieties of produce nationwide. The Western Washington University campus community may notice an impact in the resident dining halls and campus markets, as well as at local grocery stores and restaurants.

First, tomatoes have been severely affected by this winter’s weather conditions. Freezing temperatures devastated Florida tomato crops, and farmers do not expect a recovery until mid-April. Excess demand was being met by California and Mexico until hard rains damaged their crops as well. Currently, tomatoes are in short supply and of poor condition. In response, Dining Services is working diligently to continue to meet demand with quality products. Therefore, we are offering a limited variety of tomatoes and are not serving those that do not meet our standards.

Second, the recent earthquake in Chile caused tremendous damage to their infrastructure. Although it’s Chile’s peak summer growing season, this damage has severely affected their ability to bring produce to market. Of all the fruit exported from the Southern Hemisphere, about 90 percent comes from Chile.

Chile is a major exporter of stonefruit, grapes, blueberries and raspberries; most of which come to the United States via air shipment. Santiago International Airport was shutdown immediately after the earthquake, which stopped all air transit. Air travel in Chile is now partially restored, but air shipments of produce have not yet resumed. Chile’s main seaport in Valparaiso was also shut down for damage assessment, and only a small percentage of fruit is being transported via ship until further notice. Additionally, the Pan American highway, the main connector between southern and northern Chile, is heavily damaged. Many bridges were destroyed. This is the main road for getting stonefruit, grapes, apples, kiwifruit and avocados from the farms to the airport or seaport.

University Dining Services is working to minimize the impact of these natural disasters on availability of produce in campus dining locations.

Thursday, March 11, 2010 - 10:56am