Food Prices Rise During Severe Drought

Food prices could skyrocket if drought continues

Food prices are rising as California is seeing its driest year on record and farmers are having to rely more on costly irrigation to grow their crops.

Food prices rose half a percent in May, the largest hike since August 2011, according to the US Labor Department.

In April, Timothy Richards, a professor of agribusiness at Arizona State University who conducted research on probable crop price increases stemming from the drought, told CNBC that lettuce and avocados would see considerable cost increases.

In Southern Cailfornia, some farmers talked about how they're coping with the drought.

Ray Graesser, the owner of the Temecula Berry Co. has managed to stave off price increases. His farm has managed to keep the cost of a pint of blueberries, for example, at $5 for the past 10 years.

But there's a downside.

"We've had to irrigate more often," he said. "So it kind of eats into the profit."

Produce buyer and Corona resident Delaney Forsythe complains about the prices.

"They're a lot higher than normal and produce hasn't been as good of quality either," she said.

The drought is to blame. California's Central Valley is hard hit by the drought as much of the state's produce is grown there and it is among the nation's most productive farming regions. If the area sees no rain in the foreseeable future, food prices could skyrocket.

"A drought situation is just terrible for everyone," Graesser said.

Experts say that El Nino will likely return this summer after a five-year absence, bringing rain and hope to many in California.

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