Produce Costs Expected To Increase This Summer

April 17, 2014

NPR/AP
Prices of produce are expected to rise because of California's drought.

Shoppers are likely to pay more for produce this summer because of California’s drought. Research from ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business predicts prices for lettuce, avocados, peppers, grapes, tomatoes, melons and berries will increase nearly 20 percent.

The expert who crunched those numbers is Tim Richards. He says this bad news for California is possibly good news for Arizona farmers.

“That’s going to be the first response that we see, obviously, from retail distributors that are used to getting their produce from California are going to have to be looking elsewhere,” Richards said.

 And elsewhere could be Arizona, or foreign markets. According to the Food and Drug Administration nearly 20 of vegetables and 50 percent of fruit in the US are imported.

 “We import a lot, a surprising amount of our produce now, and it’s going to be more and more important as water problems this year and over the long term and going forward in California and Arizona, we are going to have to start relying more on foreign markets for our produce,” Richards said. 

This cost increase will affect prices in grocery stores and restaurants. It could also hit the National School Lunch Program, a federal meal program that provides eligible kids with free or low-cost lunches. The food in those lunches has to be grown in the country, according the United States Department of Agriculture.

Richards says consumers won’t see price increases for a few more months because these crops are harvested over the summer.