California is in the midst of what experts are calling a “mega-drought” which could lead to sky high grocery prices and even food shortages this year, experts say.
The farms that supply much of the nation’s produce are literally running out of water.
Maps indicate that the areas of California hardest hit by the mega-drought are those that grow a large percentage of America’s food. Those regions include Monterey County, which produced nearly half of the lettuce and broccoli grown in the United States in 2012.
It’s not just vegetables that will be affected; nuts and fruits will be hit just as hard or harder.
“There will be thousands of acres of fruit and nut trees that will die this year because of lack of water,” David Sunding, a professor of natural resources at the University of California at Berkley, told the San Jose Mercury News. “The reduction in yield will drive up prices.”
Large Percentage of the Nation’s Food Supply Threatened
A disturbing feature in Mother Jones magazine shows just how devastating the mega-drought will be to the nation’s food supply. California’s farms supply far more of the nation’s produce than you might think.
The produce grown in the Golden State includes:
- 95 percent of America’s broccoli crop
- 90 percent of its tomatoes
- 91 percent of its grapes
- 74 percent of its lettuce
- 99 percent of its walnuts
- 99 percent of its almonds
- 98 percent of its pistachios
- 99 percent of its walnuts
- 92 percent of strawberries
The state also is a major source of numerous other fruits and vegetables ranging from garlic to peaches — all of which could be affected by the drought.
“We’re not expecting to see much in terms of spring planting of peppers and melons,” Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition told The Monterey Herald.
How High Will Food Prices Climb?
It isn’t known how high prices will climb, but some farmers already are making predictions.
The price of a pint of organic strawberries will rise by 20 percent, from $3.50 to $4.20, California strawberry farmer Jim Cochran told The Monterey Herald. Cochran runs the Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport, California, where he also grows artichokes — which he has stopped watering.
Story continues below video
“We are going to have to sell our products for higher prices because we are not going to have the yield,” Cochran said. “We’re not trying to make more money; we’re trying to lose less.”
Scientist: Mega Drought Could Last for a Century
Lynn Ingram, a scientist at the University of California at Berkley, has uncovered evidence that such droughts can last for decades or centuries.
“If we go back several thousand years, we’ve seen that droughts can last over a decade, and in some cases, they can last over a century,” Ingram told CBS News. Ingram and her colleagues examined sediment and other evidence dating back 3,000 years.
The pattern she uncovered indicates that the 20th Century was the wettest in California in 1,300 years. She believes the current mega-drought could be the start of a century-long dry spell. Ingram also noted that California’s water infrastructure was not built to deal with such dry spells.
If you live outside of California and you want inexpensive fresh produce this summer and fall, consider planting a garden. If Ingram’s predictions about the mega-drought are true it could be the only source of low-cost fruits and vegetables.