Higher prices for apples and pears were mainly responsible for the 3-percent increase in the U.S. grower price index for fruit and nuts during the fall of 2002 compared with the previous year.

Weather problems such as freezing temperatures and hail reduced the harvest of apples and pears this past fall and together with lower stocks drove grower prices higher for these two commodities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Strong fresh fruit retail prices in the fall of 2002 pushed the October-December Consumer Price Index (CPI) for fresh fruit to an average that was 3 percent higher than the 2001 October-December index. Consumers paid higher prices for Red Delicious apples, navel oranges, and lemons.

The 2002/03 California avocado crop will likely be up slightly from the previous season despite strong Santa Ana winds that hit groves in Southern California. Some of the fruit that had dropped to the ground could still be sold as “windfall” fruit. Plentiful supplies will likely drive down 2002/03 grower prices from a year ago. However, reduced supplies of undamaged fruit from earlier expectations will likely prevent a sharp decline in grower prices.

Weather was generally favorable early into this winter's Florida strawberry season.