Natural Foods Merchandiser

Grain shortage threatens bread production

By Marty Traynor Spencer

A worldwide organic grain shortage has caused the largest U.S. producer of organic flourless breads to announce that it is unable to meet consumer demand for its products.

"Lack of organic grain has forced us to reduce production and ration how much bread and other wholegrain products we can deliver to our supermarket and health food store customers in the United States, Canada and other countries," said Gary Torres, sales and marketing director of The Food for Life Baking Company, headquartered in Corona, Calif., in a press release. "I am really concerned, because rising grain costs have forced us to increase wholesale prices of Food for Life products to retailers, who have raised prices to consumers. In the past two years, the retail cost of a 24-ounce loaf of Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 Bread has doubled from less than $2.50 to more than $5 at many stores. The price of all products made with grain will increase as worldwide fuel and grain costs escalate."Torres said that the company, which originated in 1949, has always been able to purchase organic wheat, corn, barley, millet, and spelt from farmers in the United States."For the first time in our company's history, that U.S. organic wheat supply was exhausted in early 2008," he said, adding that a three-year worldwide drought has caused imported wheat berries to be smaller and have less protein—making it less than optimal for the company's multigrain sprouted breads."Organic wheat prices have doubled since 2006, but the demand for organic wheat continues to increase from major manufacturers like General Mills and Kraft and is expanding in new foreign markets," Greg Thayer, a grain broker based in Montana, said. "Since early 2008, when I couldn't buy any more organic Montana wheat, I have been competing with Europeans to purchase organic wheat in Canada, where frost and drought have limited availability."Holly Givens, senior policy and communications adviser for the Organic Trade Association said the grain shortage Food For Life Baking Company is facing doesn't surprise her. "We've heard that with the interest in ethanol, farmers' interest in switching to organic has decreased," she said, "but consumer demand has increased. It could lead to a supply crunch."
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