Drought in California may impact food prices

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Produce and dairy prices may be rising this summer because of the severe drought in California.

Purdue Agriculture Economist Corinne Alexander said California depends on snow during the winter months for water supply in the summer. The drought limited the amount of snow, which may bring problems to California farmers.

“In areas where farmers don’t have anywhere near as much access to water, they’re having to make really hard decisions about what to not plant. We’re seeing lots of farmers in California choosing to leave fields fallow where they’re not planting anything at all,” Alexander explained.

Alexander said during the summer, Indiana relies on California farmers for lettuce, strawberries and avocados. Those products may be on the rise since California is a mass producer.

“Maybe we’d see as high, a maximum price increase on the order about 35 percent. So, maybe we would see lettuce prices up by a third,” said Alexander.

Patrick Johnson is the owner of the D&R Market in Lafayette. He said he is already starting to notice a price increase in produce. Johnson said bad weather can impact the prices of food items.

“I mean, we were right in the thick of it, and we all know how hard it was on us. And you know, that translates to the animals, or the plants or whatever. They still have to get through it also,” said Johnson.

Alexander said there may also be a small price increase in dairy products, like cheese and milk.

“We have really strong export demand for dairy products, so that is also driving up dairy prices. So, it is a little bit harder to tell which influence is bigger. Whether it is the drought in California or the export demand,” Alexander explained.

Alexander said it is still too early to see how high produce and dairy prices will be this summer. She suggests going to local farmers markets to save some money.

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