Retail food ads used to help farmers get best price
By ANN WILMER
WASHINGTON, D.C. — USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service collects a lot of information about fruit and vegetables grown and/or consumed in the United States, and they share that information with growers and consumers free.
Audrina Lange, assistant to assistant to the director of the fruits and vegetables market news division, was instrumental in developing the market report, the subject of a recent webinar that discussed what data is collected, how it is made available and how to use it to create a custom retail report.
“Skilled market reporters collect this information,” Lange said, at point of sale and by analyzing retail advertising of fresh produce. When this data are compiled, the report covers prices over roughly a two-week period.
“Retailers” include most that have online ads but excludes those that require consumers to purchase a membership, such as at Costco.
AMS does not cover WalMart because they don’t have enough ads on line for fresh fruits and vegetables to make it worth collecting.
The report does not address proprietary or premium varieties that come with a premium price and it excludes farmers’ market prices.
“Everything we do at market news is voluntary or public — online retail ads are public data,” she explained. Reporters collect the information from more than 200 retailers every week and release it in this report.
Historical data compiled this way goes back to 2008 when they started publishing the report online.
AMS disseminates the Market News Report through their website. You can find the report in PDF format with the narrative summary available on www.marketnews.usea/gov.portal/fv.
Lange explained how this data enhances market awareness and analysis and introduced the National Fruit and Vegetable Retail Report to persons not already familiar with it — some 500 participants from around the country.
It also demonstrated how the information could be used to create custom reports to guide decision making and planning.
“Market News is the eyes and ears of the produce industry,” she explained. It has been since 1915 when the USDA began collecting this kind of information. “Because of the perishable and seasonal nature of produce products, this information is critical,” Lange said.
“Timely, accurate and unbiased market information is crucial to making informed business decisions,” she added. The report creates a level playing field to both buyers and sellers and it’s free of charge to anyone who wants it.
Market news data is used is to determine value.
It is also used to make decisions about commodity loan programs or guide the federal government’s disaster response when crops are lost. This information is used when making international trade agreements, loan and business plan evaluations, the premiums for crop insurance and disaster payments.
Lange said this data is so well regarded that it is considered prima fascia evidence in a court of law.
The reports include up-to-date market information on the wholesale or terminal level, shipping point and retail market.
It is based on information collected from more than 200 retailer websites about weekly advertised prices for everything from apples to zucchini. For many sites, organic data is also available. AMS also tracks the percentage of ads that tout local produce.
The narrative summary provides overview of all the food ads. Many produce items fluctuate in price in association with certain holidays.
Every commodity they track can be broken out. Once you download the data to Excel, you can use pivot tables to produce charts and graphs.
Users can export the data in multiple formats for further use.
Users can look at national and/or region al data and separate out organic data, if desired. Users can run a report of up to two years of data in one report using the pop up data box. They can also download this information in Excel, text, XML or PDF format.
“Save it as you want to on your computer,” said Lange. “Once you have it, you can use this information for long term decisions (business planning), to track trends or to forecast. You can also contact USDA for help in running a custom report geared to your particular needs.”