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» April 7, 2005 «
High fuel prices hit farmers at a peak demand period, as they prepare fields for planting. Rapidly rising prices affect the diesel fuel that farmers use to run farm equipment, and also bring increased costs for fertilizer, farm chemicals and other supplies. Farmers say they will work to use fuel as efficiently as possible. Because crop prices are set by supply and demand, farmers generally cannot pass on their added costs.
Low rice prices will prompt California farmers to plant fewer acres this year. But analysts report a few bullish signs regarding world rice prices. Cold weather at flowering time will apparently cut rice production in Australia. Drought in Asia will reduce yields in Thailand, India and Vietnam. Even if California farmers wanted to increase their plantings at this point, observers say that banks remain reluctant to lend money for that purpose.
A surge in grapefruit prices this season probably won't encourage California farmers to plant more groves. Hurricane damage in Florida reduced grapefruit production to its lowest point in nearly 70 years. But in typical seasons, Florida dominates production, with California ranking third, behind Texas. California grapefruit acreage has declined in recent times, as farmers replace their groves with other crops.
Growers of one of California's more exotic crops say they have enjoyed a strong season. Farmers grow macadamia nuts commercially in San Diego County. They say demand for their crop exceeds supply, keeping prices up. The trees produce nuts all year, but production will taper off in about a month. The California Macadamia Society says trees are blooming now, and all indications point to a larger crop next season.Top