Goodrich, Brittney; Kiesel, Kristin; Bruno, Ellen
California consistently leads the U.S. in the value of agricultural commodities produced, specializing in the production of high-value fruit, vegetable, and nut crops. In this article, we outline the short-term, medium-term, and evolving long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on California’s produce and tree nut industries. Many of California’s top commodities are labor intensive and highly perishable, e.g., strawberries and lettuce, and consequently these types of commodities experienced some of the worst economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These initial impacts included higher production costs due to social distancing and other worker protection measures, and the discarding of millions of dollars’ worth of produce which was intended for the food service sector. Other top commodities, such as almonds and processing tomatoes, have highly mechanized operations with relatively non-perishable products. These have been more resilient to the short-run effects of the pandemic on supply chains but have experienced disruptions in international trade. In this article, we highlight the differential effects of the pandemic on California’s high-value crops across the food service and retail supply chains, discuss the mitigating effects of federal, state and industry support, and highlight emerging consumer trends.