British Columbia could see food prices rise by up to 34% in 2015, due to the protracted drought in California. B.C. gets 67% of its imported vegetables and 44% of its fruits from the US, over half of which is from California.
A report commissioned by Vancouver City Savings Credit Union (Vancity) – Wake up Call: California Drought and B.C.’s Food Security – informs that California’s current drought, which has lasted more than 30 months, is the state’s driest ever.
The authors warn that people could be paying $7 for a crown of broccoli and $3.50 for a head of lettuce within the next five years.
Agriculture uses up about 80% of California’s water supply. Urban and industrial requirements are currently competing with the scarce resource. Farmers have started pumping water from groundwater sources, depleting aquifers, which over the long term is not a viable strategy.
B.C. has become increasingly dependent on imports for its food supply.
According to the report, in the whole of North America the prices of most fruits and vegetables will increase by between 20% and 34% next year.
In British Columbia, prices of fruits and vegetables have risen by between 5.7% and 9.6% from July 2013 and 2014. If these trends continue, over the next five years prices could rise by as much as 50%, the report predicts, adding an extra C$30 to C$60 to each household’s monthly grocery bill.
B.C. should produce its own food
From 1991 to 2011, vegetable crop production in B.C. fell by 20.4%. The authors call on B.C. to become more self-reliant on food products. The region is fully capable of producing its own fruits and vegetables.
While it is true that grocery retailers have access to worldwide distribution systems that give them access to foods from virtually anywhere, the authors explain that water supplies are dwindling in most parts of the world.
According to the report:
“As water becomes scarce in more regions and climate becomes more variable, a system based on any substantive way on large volumes of imports will continue to be vulnerable and more unpredictable, with food price spikes a likely result.”
Vancity says California’s drought could be a wake up call that B.C. needs to become more self-sufficient and secure regarding its food supply.
It quotes a recent poll that found that 92% of British Columbians believe it is ‘very important’ to them that B.C. produces enough food so that the region does not have to depend on imports from other places. Eighty percent said they are worried about food security.