Did Pumpkins Cost You More in October 2020 Than in Previous Years?

It depends on whether you will be carving a jack-o’-lantern, decorating, or baking a pumpkin pie. And if carving a jack-o’-lantern, on what size. The U.S. Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) surveys large retailers, and every week, publishes a national retail report of advertised specialty crop prices ending during a given period, usually an almost 2-week window. In this post, I take a closer look at the retail pumpkin prices for the Southeastern United States (i.e., Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) published by AMS in the specialty crop retail reports released in October 2018, 2019, and 2020.

On average, advertised retail prices for all pumpkins in the Southeastern United States in October 2020 were 8.9% higher than those in October 2019, and prices in October 2019 were 8.3% lower than those in October 2018, leading to similar average prices in October 2020 to those in October 2018 (Figure 1). Average retail prices for extra-large pumpkins in October 2020 were also close to those in previous Octobers, without much fluctuation in prices throughout the month this year (Figure 2). However, it seems that average retail prices for large and medium pumpkins this October were higher than in previous years, with medium pumpkins seeing yearly price increases. While average retail prices for large pumpkins in October 2019 were 1.9% lower than those in October 2018, they increased by 7.9% from October 2019 to October 2020 (Figure 3). Average retail prices for medium pumpkins in October 2019 were 1.7% higher than those in October 2018 and 18.0% higher in October 2020 than those in October 2019. Data collected from 311 stores show that advertised prices for medium pumpkins were highest for the period ending during the 2nd-3rd week of October 2020, when unit prices ranged from $4.00 to $8.00 and averaged $6.83 (Figure 4).

 

 

 

Many factors can drive up the prices of consumer goods, like supply chain disruptions, government policies that boost demand and economic growth to the point that demand exceeds production capacity, and people’s or firms’ expectations of higher prices. Food inflation measures how much more expensive food has become over a certain period. According to the latest inflation data available from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, the average price of food at home in the United States rose 1.0% from October 2018 to October 2019 and 4.1% from September 2019 to September 2020. Thus, the increases in retail prices for large and medium pumpkins in October 2020 relative to October 2019 (7.9% and 18.0% for large and medium pumpkins, respectively) were higher than the food inflation rate of 4.1% for September 2020. They will also likely be higher than the (soon-to-be-published) food inflation rate for October 2020. Although the food inflation rates published by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics capture many factors influencing food prices during the previous 12 months, this comparison might suggest that the cost of those two pumpkin sizes in October 2020 grew at a faster pace than recent estimates of the overall cost of food.

In contrast with other sizes, miniature and pie type pumpkin prices were lower this year than in previous years. On average, advertised retail prices for miniature pumpkins in October 2020 were 13.3% higher than those in October 2019, and prices in October 2019 were 17.4% lower than those in October 2018, leading to lower average prices in October 2020 than those in October 2018 (Figure 5). Average retail prices for pie type pumpkins in October 2020 were also lower than those in previous Octobers, with pie type pumpkins having yearly price decreases. Average retail prices for pie type pumpkins in October 2019 were 6.7% lower than those in October 2018 and 5.0% lower in October 2020 than those in October 2019 (Figure 6). Whether you will be carving a jack-o’-lantern, decorating, or baking a pie, the figures in this blog post can give you more insights on how pumpkin prices at your local store compare with average prices at major retailers in the U.S. southeast region—and on whether those local price tags will be scary or not.