Managing a Pest with Harvest Timing: Implications for Crop Quality and Price

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This article examines a case in which growers’ pest management decisions collectively generate a change in price that reduces the losses from infestation for some but further harms others. Olive growers in California control the olive fruit fly not only by spraying insecticides but also by harvesting olives earlier, sacrificing quality and altering the industry’s fruit quality distribution. Growers of higher quality fruit alter harvest timing the most, benefiting from the resulting change in the quality premium at the expense of growers of lower quality fruit. Across the industry, the change in the quality premium leads to greater reliance on chemical control.