CHICAGO -- Drought conditions in the Midwest are sending commodity grain and soybean prices soaring. "Plants are listing, stalks are spindly and corn ears are small," a Reuters story reported.
This year's weather does not bode well for the snack-food sector. Rows of popping corn typically flourish near fields of soybeans in the Midwest. But this year's rainfall shortage and triple-digit temperatures have stunted the popcorn crop.
As a result, retail prices for a 50-lb. bag have jumped this summer, from about $20 to $30 or higher. Wholesale prices are reportedly edging up, too.
In 2010, the popcorn industry sold $985.7 million worth of unpopped kernels, down 2.2% from five years earlier, the Reuters story said. That's scarcely an economic nibble out of the country's corn world. Most popcorn consumed worldwide is grown in the U.S., and export demand is gradually rising in China and Russia.
Major popcorn producing states are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio. Americans consume 16 billion quarts of popped popcorn annually, or 52-plus quarts per person, according to The Popcorn Board (Chicago).
While consumers may soon have to pay more for popcorn snacks in grocery stores and other retail outlets, prices for popcorn buckets at movie theaters are not likely to increase much because the popcorn portion of the product represents a small fraction of the price.