California's drought expected to impact food prices in Canada
Published Wednesday, February 5, 2014 12:49PM EST
It's not just farmers that are feeling the impact of California's record-breaking drought, as experts warn that food prices in Canada could be poised to increase by as much as 20 per cent.
Canada imports more than $5 billion worth of produce from California yearly, and much of those fruits and vegetables cross the border during the winter months. But as California endures the most severe drought to hit the state in 500 years, strains on water supplies are expected to force farmers to leave fields unplanted, which will create a ripple effect through the food system.
University of Guelph economics professor Sylvain Charlebois says the price of food products imported from California could soon increase by as much as 20 per cent.
"Couple that with (Canada's) weak currency, and that might actually exceed 20 per cent," Charlebois told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
He said the average Canadian buys about $500 worth of food from California yearly, and that amount jumps for Canadian consumers who purchase organic food.
"About 80 per cent of the organic food we eat in Canada is imported, and a lot of it comes from California," Charlebois said. "For organic product fans, you're likely to pay more for next few months."
The U.S. government has announced $20 million in aid for California's drought-stricken farmers, which will be used for improvements in irrigation and water systems. But some farm communities are already bracing for unemployment to soar.
"Right now when it comes to water scarcity, the situation in California is dire," Charlebois said. "For many municipalities, they are about 100 days away from running out of water, literally, for humans, let alone for livestock and plants."
On the bright side, he said the drought could actually present some opportunities for Canadian farmers.
"For Canadian agriculture, this could be an opportunity for us to export into California," he said.