Could Hurricane Ian Drive Food Prices Up?

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KEY POINTS

  • Americans have been forced to spend more on groceries all year.
  • In the wake of a major storm, food costs could soar even more.
  • Florida's citrus crops are well-known, but a major fertilizer component is also produced in the Sunshine State.


Consumers could be in for a world of added costs.

There's a reason so many Americans have had to dip into their savings this year just to stay afloat. Inflation has driven living costs upward, and it's had a huge impact on the cost of food.

Food costs are up 11.4% on an annual basis through August, marking their largest annual increase since May of 1979, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And in the wake of Hurricane Ian, the cost of food could soar even more.

How Hurricane Ian might impact food supply

Florida is known as a major supplier of citrus fruits. But with 75% of the state's citrus belt having the potential to succumb to flooding, there's a good chance that particular supply chain will get battered to some degree. And once that happens, the cost of citrus fruits and related products could climb.

But that's not all. A major producer of the phosphates used in fertilizer is based in Tampa, and if the city ends up being really hard hit, it could impact production there. That could be a problem given that the aforementioned phosphates are needed to supply fertilizer to farmers throughout the country -- not just local farmers.

Extreme weather rears its ugly head

Hurricane Ian isn't the only incident of extreme weather impacting food supply chains this year. Much of the country was also subject to drought conditions during the summer. That's forced farmers to destroy their own crops.

All told, the harder weather events make it to maintain food supply chains, the more consumers are apt to suffer. And at a time when everything is already so expensive, that's a problem.

How to save money on food during inflation

It's too soon to tell what impact Hurricane Ian will ultimately have on food production. But either way, consumers who are struggling financially this year can, and should, take steps to reduce their food-related spending as prices soar.

One option is to plan out menus in advance and load up on sale items when they become available. This tactic works especially well with non-perishables, since they don't have the same limited shelf life as products like meats, fruits, and vegetables.

Consumers who have a decent amount of storage space at their disposal can also take advantage of bulk buying opportunities. Supermarkets regularly offer bulk products, and stocking up on oft-used items can result in a lower cost per ounce or unit.

Similarly, taking advantage of a Costco membership could go a long way at a time when food prices seem to be going nowhere but up. And buying a first-time Costco membership could be a smart move right about now, especially for larger households who have easy access to a local warehouse club store.

Of course, the safety of Florida residents should be of utmost importance and concern as Hurricane Ian works its way through and out of the state. But the fact that the storm could cause consumers across the country additional financial stress is definitely worth noting and gearing up for.

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