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California drought may mean higher food prices

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The drought in California is likely to mean higher grocery prices this summer. This is because California produces the great preponderance of food crops for the United States: 90% of the nation’s broccoli, 99% of our walnuts, 95% of the celery, 95% of the garlic, and 69% of the carrots we eat.

The lack of water in California’s Central Valley, where many of these crops are grown, has meant that farmers are trying to save their orchards (which produce almonds and plums as well as oranges and lemons), so they are diverting what water they have to the trees, and letting the parched land lie fallow.

Even with the rains last week, there still isn’t enough water for crops. And meteorologists note that core samples and tree rings indicate that droughts like this year’s could go on for decades, even for a century or more. Indeed, their research indicates that such droughts are the norm, and that the twentieth century may have been unusually wet.

Although the U.S. gets much of its produce from South America during the winter, their winter corresponds to our summer, so there are likely to be fewer imports during the summer months. This, together with the California drought and unusually cold weather in the southern states this winter, is likely to result in an increase in prices at the grocery store.

There isn’t a lot most urban dwellers can do other than to put in a garden. Balconies and patios-- even windowsills-- can be put into use for this purpose if you don’t have a yard. Budget conscious consumers should be thinking about starting seeds now, in the early spring, in order to grow some of their own food this summer.