Monterey County

Drought Could Impact California Produce Prices

Vegetable grower says reduced supply could mean higher prices

SALINAS, Calif. - The state drought's impacts are sprouting legs and spreading to your pocketbooks. Produce could be on the rise if California doesn't get more rain soon.

Some people may already be paying higher prices for vegetables, like broccoli and lettuce, at the grocery store. But things could get worse from here.

"Root development isn't very good at this point," said David Martella, a vegetable grower in the Salinas Valley.

Martella said the size of his cauliflower is all thanks to the lack of rainfall.

"You have smaller plants and bigger plants," he said.

The trickle-down effect? Less production means consumers pay more.

"Pricing would probably rise because of a decrease in supply with equal demand, which means there will be shortages," Martella said.

So, it all comes down to supply and demand.

Martella grows various vegetables in the Salinas Valley, including lettuce, broccoli and spinach. Without the rain, he's used to during this time of year, he's paying more himself just to keep his 2,500 acres growing.

"We're irrigating 100 percent more than normal because normally we wouldn't be irrigating right now, so it will probably cost us five to 10 percent more," he said.

Water managers in California said unless the state is hit with some hard rains in the next few months, they will only deliver five percent of the water requested by agencies for agriculture purposes.

For growers, like Martella, they could make that up if consumers are forced to pay more.

"If you have reduced supply, you're taking less cartons to market. Usually you get the benefit of higher pricing, so it compensates for the reduction in production," Martella said.

Officials with some of the local supermarkets said prices have been pretty steady, at least for right now. But they said it's premature to say what they could look like in the future.

comments powered by Disqus