Why prune fans are plum out of luck

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 30/03/2014

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Yet another super fruit is being hit by a global food shortage, meaning higher prices at supermarkets.

Fresh off a banana scare, Kiwis have to stomach a shortage of the popular preserved plum, the prune. Once deemed uncool because of their reputation as a laxative, prunes have proved a hit in recent times after gaining super-fruit status.

However, more-profitable nuts and a Californian drought are threatening the prune's place on supermarket shelves.

Sunsweet spokesman Kerry Conway said prune crops had been pulled from Californian, Chilean and Argentinian fields over the past decade to make way for hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds, which have higher yields than prunes. To make matters worse, plum crops have failed in California due to a drought.

"Now we've had a crop disaster, it means there's an awful lot less produced," Conway said.

The price of prunes has risen 10 per cent, and Conway said there was a risk of future shortages.

Prunes are the top-selling packaged dried fruit in New Zealand, pulling in $8 million a year, he said. "People have realised prunes are really good for your health. When you compare them with other dried fruits, they are the highest in antioxidants."

The latest shortage comes weeks after supermarkets cut back supplies of bananas after bad weather affected growing conditions in the Philippines.

Oxfam NZ spokesman Jason Garman said global food shortages were becoming more regular due to increasing demand, which is expected to rise 14 per cent in the next decade, dwindling access to energy fresh water, crop competition and global warming.

Coffee and chocolate were the next crops likely to suffer a shortage - and a price rise. "Those crops [coffee and chocolate] are going to get harder to grow in a changing climate," Garman said.

Pests are flourishing as the world warms with central America yields down 40 per cent in 2013-14.

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