British Columbia

Cost of fruit and veg rising in B.C. due to California drought

British Columbia gets 70 per cent of its produce imports from California - but with almost the whole state in severe drought, fruit and vegetable prices look set to rise.

California produce accounts for 70 per cent of all fruits and vegetables imported into B.C.

Fruits and vegetables from California have been affected by years of severe drought.

It's one of the driest years on record in California. Nearly the entire state is in severe to exceptional drought, making growing conditions very difficult.

That severe drought is causing produce prices to rise across North America, including British Columbia, which gets 70 per cent of its imported fruit and vegetables from California.

According to a 2011 report from the University of Victoria, the province imports three times as much fruit as it exports.

"It's because we have a fairly short growing season,” says UBC Land and Food Systems Professor James Vercammen.

Vercammen says big grocery stores source most of their fruits and vegetables from big producers in California so they can offer a steady supply to their customers.

The most common produce imported from California include staples like lettuce, oranges, berries and broccoli.

“We used to produce a lot of lettuce. Now it’s almost 100 per cent imported from California,” says Vercammen.

Louis Campbell, manager at Stong's Market, says California produce are some of his store's biggest sellers. (CBC)

Louis Campbell, a manager at Stong’s Market, says he has noticed a change in the quality and price of the produce his store has received from California.

“We’ve seen a lot of spotted salads,” says Campbell. Lettuce, citrus and melons from California are a big part of the grocer’s fruit and vegetable sales.

To compensate, Stong’s is featuring more local produce like kale and strawberries.

“In price it’s a little more but the quality is way better,” says Campbell. “It’s way fresher buying local.”

Vercammen agrees that California’s misfortunes may be good news for B.C. farmers. A lack of supply means increased demand and thus more profit for them.

He says price will likely spike throughout the summer on various products, but this may only be temporary as other global markets such as Mexico and South America begin to compensate.

On mobile? Click here for a photogallery of the California drought

With files from Renee Filippone and Meera Bains