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NEWS: Weak Dollar Forces Importers To Search Beyond Europe For Specialty Foods

Fleur De Sel

Sometimes the answer is to buy California olive oil instead of imports. But for certain products, like Fleur de Sel, shown above, there are no U.S. substitutes. Photo courtesy of Saltworks.us.
  It’s no surprise that due to the weak dollar, along with higher shipping costs, imports from Europe and other parts of the world will be pricier this year. As of this writing, it costs about $1.44 to buy one euro, up from $1.30 this time last year. This means that those delicious French cheeses and sea salts, Italian olive oils and pastas, Hungarian paprika and Spanish Serrano hams—plus the eagerly anticipated Jamón Ibérico Bellota, already priced at $96 a pound—will cost more. With the poor saffron and fig harvests, the tab for those specialty products will climb even higher. Even if you’re willing to pay more, you may not be able to find your favorite products—because most people won’t spring for that $8.00 pasta, so retailers won’t stock them.
Betsy Power of the Culinary Collective, which imports some our favorite Spanish products (including the Matiz Olivada olive spreads and El Rebost cava vinegar and violet gourmet gels we wrote about last month), says that she is forced to discontinue three dozen slow-selling items, including some beautiful jars of gourmet artichokes that now have to retail at $10 a jar. “There’s only so high you can raise your price before [a product is] priced out of the market,” she recently told The Seattle Times. She also commented that she and many other importers are expanding their horizons from Europe to regions where the dollar stretches further, including Mexico, the Philippines, South America and Australia, hoping to find more reasonable, if different, gourmet specialties. So instead of beautiful stemmed artichokes to garnish your roast this Easter, you just might be finding jars of prickly pear cactus. Stay tuned!




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