Friday, June 27, 2014

Continued severe drought in West and Southwest means grocery store prices will keep rising

Groceries across the country will feel the effects of severe drought in the West and Southwest, as prices of fruits, vegetables, beef and rice are expected to rise dramatically in the coming months, Brianna Sacks reports for the Los Angeles Times. (Times photo by Don Bartletti: San Gabriel reservoir has receded over a mile.)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report this week that said fresh fruit and vegetable prices are expected to increase an estimated 6 percent, mainly due to drought in California that is draining local water supplies, Sacks writes. Timothy Richards, a chair at the Morrison School of Agribusiness at Arizona State University, told Sacks, "You’re probably going to see the biggest produce price increases on avocados, berries, broccoli, grapes, lettuce, melons, peppers, tomatoes and packaged salads."

Almost 70 percent of the nation's lettuce is grown in California, where "the rising cost of water has forced farmers to idle about 500,000 acres of land and produce less, making certain foods more expensive," Sacks writes. Rice could also be hit hard by drought, with prices rising 10 to 20 percent, said Daniel Sumner, director of the Agriculture Issues Center at University of California Davis.

Drought conditions in the Southwest are also expected to drive beef prices up 9 percent, while milk prices are expected to rise because of an increase in demand, Sacks writes. Overall, food prices rose half a percent in May, the largest hike since August 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. (Read more)

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