California farmers suffer costly losses from weeks of severe storms that could make US fruits and vegetables more expensive at a time of rampant food inflation.
“The numbers are going to be in the millions and probably billions,” Dave Puglia, director of the Western Growers Trade Group, said in a phone interview, adding that almost all of the cost of the damage would fall on the center of California. coast.
Some growers in the region known as “America’s Salad Bowl” can’t even begin cleanup because the fields are littered with mud and debris. While three weeks of incessant rain has led to urgent water needs in drought-stricken California, subsequent flooding will delay planting in a state where agriculture is a $50 billion industry.
“It’s safe to say there will be a production gap sometime this spring when those crops are coming out of the field,” Puglia said. US “This will reduce supply and inevitably lead to higher prices on the shelves.”
The scenario will leave some farmers scrambling to figure out how to supply national restaurant chains and food distributors who typically only buy their lettuce, berries, broccoli and other produce every few months.
The flooding is prompting Church Brothers Farms to plant additional acres and stay longer than usual in the desert region of Southern California and Arizona to avoid supply shortages. Due to the extremely high desert temperatures, producers usually move north around March.
“I have to sell something to my customers,” said Ernst van Eeghen of Church Brothers Farms. “These chain restaurants suddenly can’t run out of salads, so I have to find ways to supply them.”