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Produce Prices Expected To Spike From Worst Drought In Century For California

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- It may be on the other side of the country, but the devastating drought happening in California right now could soon have a major impact on grocery budgets in Maryland.

Derek Valcourt explains we may soon see a big spike in produce prices.

Even though they've had quite a bit of rain in the last 48 hours, California is still smack in the middle of one of the worst droughts in more than a century. And we will all be paying the price for it when it comes to the cost of our fruits and vegetables.

Tens of thousands of California farm acres now sit unused. The ground is too dry to grow anything.

"It's very depressing, one farmer said.

Reservoirs at shockingly low levels, farmers are trying to salvage what they can. Their livelihoods are on the line.

"If we don't have another wet year next year, all bets are off. These trees are dead," another farmer said.

That kind of devastation is expected to ripple across a country that relies on California to produce about half of the nation's fruits and vegetables.

Local grocers in Maryland are already experiencing some of the effects and bracing for more.

"You'll see the impact within a few weeks, I think, at the register where you'll be paying a little bit more. I guess somewhere in the 10 to 25 percent range," said Jeff Major, produce manager at Graul's Market.

Don't expect to see many shortages at your local store. Many grocers will supplement with produce from other countries like Chili or Mexico. But that, too, comes with a price.

"Even if we're sourcing product from an area that isn't affected by weather, they know that there's less supply. So they will put their prices up, even though their costs haven't gone up," Major said.

Local shoppers say they're already noticing higher prices.

"All our produce is fresh. Occasionally, I buy something frozen, but not very often. So it is hurting the budget," Jessie Brooks said.

Others are preparing for a price jump of a dollar more for some items.

"And that would affect what I would spend. I would look for an alternative," Bob Taylor said.

The drought is affecting more than just produce. It's also taking a toll on California's dairy products and the grass-fed beef industry there.

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