Drought likely to increase food prices: Produce could be more expensive

SAN DIEGO - The drought that is gripping California could soon pinch your wallet.

Local produce distributors say if the state does not get any rain soon, they will have to charge grocery stores more for fruits and vegetables like cantaloupe, broccoli and bell peppers.

Because of the drought, the price that stores are paying for fresh fruits and vegetables could soon go up, meaning customers will have to fork over more cash for their produce.

"You're going to have a higher, more costly item with a lower quality," said Isabel Freeland, who is with Coast Citrus Distributors. 

Coast Citrus Distributors says they expect to buy less produce from Central Valley farmers hit hard by the drought.

Baha Awad, who is a buyer for the company, says the commitment price farmers set has already gone up and he estimates customers will see an increase in prices come spring.

"A box could double on the price or even triple, it's a supply and demand," Awad said.

A representative for the San Diego County Farm Bureau says 50 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown in California. The increase customers will see all depends on if it rains and the cost of importing already scarce water, among other factors.

Right now, local distributors are looking for more farmers to buy from to meet their needs. They are hoping for the best but are gearing up to make sure there is no shortage of fruits and vegetables for San Diegans.

"We have to always be watching because if we don't have the product, we have to make the decision whether we're going to import it and who we're going to buy it from," said Freeland.

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