Monday :: May 3, 2010

Fourteen Cents for Globalization


by Deacon Blues

I admit that I'll never fully understand why globalization is so good for America, when entire industries are demolished here in the US as a consequence. But I was reading this story over the weekend about what Chinese imports have done to the California cling peach growers, and it made me wonder why we're even buying food of any kind from a country with a product safety record like China's.

The story tells us that California supermarkets are now buying packaged/canned cling peaches from China marketed by Sunkist, produced 6,000 miles away, rather than buying in-state homegrown product marketed by Del Monte. Raley's, normally a good chain in other respects, tells the reporter that the reason they made the switch from Del Monte to Sunkist was because of the way the peaches were sweetened.

Raley's spokeswoman Nicole Townsend said the grocer switched brands because Sunkist's fruit cup is sweetened with natural fruit juices, which shoppers prefer.

Sure. How does Raley's know this about their shoppers? Did they survey them? Were shoppers told that this naturally sweetened product was coming from China, at the expense of California farmers? And what exactly constitutes "naturally sweetened" in China anyway? We already know what constitutes toothpaste, baby toys, and pet food in China.

Yes, some economist and free market slug who's only interested in profits will tell us that the benefits of globalization outweigh the loss of industries here, because consumers get lower prices, without it also being said that the companies get bigger bottom lines at the expense of reduced quality control. And why would Sunkist rather send us Chinese cling peaches?

Carter said China is taking away market share from many U.S. processed products, including apple juice and frozen strawberries. China can undercut California products because they pay workers the same rate for a day of work that U.S. growers pay for an hour of labor.

Ah, there it is. So you'd think that such a wage disparity leads to a large difference in prices, as a trade-off for demolishing an industry and taking on more risky food. Nope.

"I usually get the Del Monte one, because it tastes better," she said. "But my son eats a lot of this, so I'll buy Dole because it's cheaper." Del Monte's fruit cup was priced at $2.12, Dole's, $1.98.

Fourteen cents. But did the mom know she was trading a California product for a Chinese product that was shipped in 6,000 miles from a country with China's safety record?

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