Sunday, November 29, 2009


Economics textbooks, including Chapter 14 of my favorite one, explain how firms shut down production when the price of output falls below average variable cost. Here is an example:

NY apple growers leaving more fruit on trees

New York's apple orchards are being carpeted with red as unpicked apples drop to the ground.

With the best of the crop off to market, growers say this year it's cheaper to leave leftovers on the trees than to pick and sell them for juice....

One reason is an abundant crop, not only in New York but in neighboring Pennsylvania and nearby Michigan, which has produced more second-tier fruit than juice and applesauce makers need and driven down market prices.

When labor and transportation costs are factored in, selling anything but the cream of the crop for the supermarket can become a losing proposition.

"In some cases it's not worth the bother of picking them off the tree," said Peter Gregg, spokesman for the New York Apple Association.

The difference in prices is the biggest one-year swing some have ever seen. Last year, growers hurt by severe hailstorms were getting an above-average 12-18 cents per pound for processing apples, those sold for sauce and slices. The price is about 5-8 cents this year.

Thanks to econ prof Linda Ghent for sending this along.