Pumpkin Shortage: Pumpkin Pie In Peril, Holiday Decorating Not So Much

A pumpkin shortage is occurring this fall season due to harvest numbers being unusually lower in 2015. The good news is it won’t affect consumers purchasing them to carve for Halloween, but pie makers will be hard-pressed to find pumpkins in abundance for holiday desserts.

Huffington Post reports that the pumpkin shortage is mainly impacting canned pumpkins. Illinois is the top-producing pumpkin state. Experts there suggest buying canned pumpkin whenever it arrives in the store.

Libby’s brand is used for sugar or pie pumpkins. Crops this year are yielding pumpkins smaller in shape and fleshier than others. The pulp is said to also have “a less grainy texture that is sweeter.”

What’s the reason for the pumpkin shortage this season? Farmers all around the state are citing the record rainfall that wiped out their sugar pumpkin crops.

Jane Moran, owner of Moran’s Orchard in Neoga, explained that they replanted washed out pumpkin crops, but it rained even more after that, which means they now have to buy pumpkins at auction twice a week.

Moran says that not much can be done when climate works against you.

“When you deal with Mother Nature, you just have to take it and go on,” Moran said.

Libby is one of the nation’s largest manufactures of canned pumpkin. It says below average productions of pumpkin could be off by as much as a third this year in Illinois. This is the state where roughly 90 percent of the pumpkins in the United States are grown. Most of them are within a 90-mile radius of Peoria. The company has a pumpkin processing plant in central Illinois and has since 1929.

Roz O’Hearn, Libby’s corporate and brand affairs director, believes that there will be enough pumpkin for the fall holiday season. What happens after the holidays is a different story. O’Hearn estimates that “once we ship the remainder of the 2015 harvest, we’ll have no more Libby’s pumpkin to sell until harvest 2016.”

It’s not just Illinois that is hit by the pumpkin shortage; Nebraska is seeing the perils of smaller crops as well due to heavy rainfall. Omaha.com reports that the pumpkins were unable to grow with the drenched soil.

 (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Roca Berry Farm owner Beverly Schaefer in Lancaster County, Nebraska, said that she was beginning to think she and her husband would have to buy several pumpkins from other farms. Schaefer said a “weird” growing season had yielded some “rotten and small pumpkins.”

Kathleen Cue, University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension assistant in Omaha, explains what pumpkins need in order to thrive. She says that they require a “warm soil to germinate, attention from bees, sunny days and plenty of rain.”

Shaefer said this year’s rainfall was more than what the pumpkins needed to produce. Record-setting moisture drenched the Lincoln area last spring and left one of her lowest-lying fields completely saturated. The Schaefers weren’t able to plant pumpkins until later, which meant some “seedlings struggled to grow in too-wet clay soil.”

There were some areas around Nebraska that didn’t get the wipeout condition that other pumpkin growers did.

Cue said that “the abundant rain and warm temperatures were perfect, and they just got down to the business of growing.”

Pumpkin shortage won't affect holiday decorating (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images).

The pumpkin shortage is essentially hurting the pie-making industry more than those who want a basic pumpkin to decorate for Halloween or Thanksgiving.

Heavy rainfall impacted several parts of the country in 2015 while unseasonable dryness hit other regions. Oregon, for example, lost significant production in grass seed due to heat and drought over the spring and summer, Capital Press reports. The area typically gets a substantial amount of rain until May.

[Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images]