Patti and Howie Berger at Time for a Bagel; he said that although he worries about the rising prices, he’ll still buy bagels. Photo by Johanna Ginsberg
March 20, 2008
Bagel prices are jumping higher, leaving bigger holes in consumers’ wallets as wheat prices soar worldwide.
At Time for a Bagel in Morris Plains, the traditional Jewish favorite now costs 90 cents, up from 75 cents just a few weeks ago.
At Bagelicious in Rockaway, a garlic bagel will set you back 75 cents; just three weeks ago, it cost 65 cents.
Sonny’s in South Orange now charges 75 cents, 90 for cinnamon raisin.
And at Super Duper Bagels in Livingston, the price is now a super duper 95 cents.
Record wheat prices are burdening storeowners, who worry about supply and fret about alienating customers with high prices.
“There’s no end in sight. I’m trying to get a price quote on flour and I don’t know what it will be the next day,” said Jeff Gilbert, owner of Time for a Bagel who called the situation “a little scary.”
Super Duper Bagel owner Ari Jashinsky said he has watched prices go from “less than $20 per bag to $60 a bag” and continue to rise with every delivery. “It’s impossible not to raise prices,” he said.
Both owners are seeing their profits fall, unable to cover the gap. They hope customers will be sympathetic. “Some people definitely understand,” said Jashinsky. “If they watch TV or open the newspaper, they will see that wheat prices are up 300 percent.”
Increasing demand and dropping supplies of wheat have been causing the prices to soar to 30-year highs.
“It’s a combination of some long-term trends and short-term shocks to the system,” said Dr. Carl Pray, chair of Rutgers University’s Department of Agriculture, Food, and Resource Economics. “The long-term trends are the growth in income per capita and also growth in population in some of the big countries like China and India.”
Growing income means more demand for the grains that feed animals and for the land that can be used to grow it, said Pray.
And in the short term, three years of drought in Australia haven’t helped, he said. Nor have government subsidies for corn for ethanol production, which make corn more profitable to grow than wheat.
The good news for local bagel purveyors is that the drought in Australia “won’t go on forever,” Pray said. But the long-term issues will continue.
His prediction: “I think the sort of acute high prices of the last couple of years probably will start to come down in a year or so, but long-term trends will continue to put pressure on wheat and corn and soybean prices.”
So far, prices aren’t keeping too many people away from their bagel fix. Patti and Howie Berger of Denville still come to Time for a Bagel about once a week.
“I’m living with the increases,” said Howie Berger, who points to the comparable rise in corn prices. “It’s across the board with anything to do with bread and corn products. I know their costs are going up and they’re passing that on,” he said. “Am I worried? Sure. But I’ll still buy bagels.”
Greg Rufolo from Morris Plains still buys bagels every day, but, he said, “it’s okay right now, but if it goes any higher, like to $1 or $1.50….” He shrugs, suggesting he’s not so sure.
But Rich Stewart, outside Super Duper Bagels, won’t stop buying the bagels, even at 95 cents a piece. “Oh, they make a good bagel here,” he quipped.
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