Houston produce distributor feeling financial impacts of Russia’s war on Ukraine

Here's what we know

HOUSTON – At Brother’s Produce in southeast Houston, receiving, sorting, packaging and distributing produce is a 24-hour operation.

The company CEO, Brent Erenwert, said now their costs have more than doubled.

“We’re the middle guy between the farmer and your plate,” Erenwert said. “Two years ago, I would say I was a produce expert. Now, I consider myself a supply chain expert.”

He said as of lately, he and his team are constantly recalculating costs.

“We’ve seen packaging just go through the roof, and if our costs go up, then it gets passed on to the consumer,” he explained.

Russia’s war on Ukraine is also causing the costs of fuel to rise. Erenwert said they expect to see more changes after President Joe Biden announced the ban of Russian oil imports on Tuesday.

“We’re paying a $4.76 average per diesel gallon right now,” Erenwert said. “Last year, we were paying $2.74. We expect next week to go up even harder.”

Craig Pirrong, a professor of finance of C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, said he predicts this is just the beginning.

“The Ukrainian situation is sort of a full spectrum disaster from the perspective of consumers,” said Pirrong. “The economic consequences are not just in the price you pay at the pump or the store, but could be your jobs or things of that nature.”

For Brothers’ they say their rising costs trickle down to the consumer.

“The way people can really save money on produce is to buy whole things,” Erenwert said.

He said consumers should buy fruits and veggies whole, and any item that is pre-packaged will ultimately cost more. He also said, if you are buying prepackaged, the frozen option is your best bet.

“Every single day we are faced with a new challenge,” Erenwert said.

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