Wake up Call: California Drought & B.C.’s Food Security

Prices for a variety of fruits and vegetables in B.C. could increase up to 34 per cent this year due to the drought in California.

According to the report Wake up Call: California Drought & B.C.’s Food Security, which was commissioned by Vancity, drought has persisted in California over the past three years, with the majority of the state in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. With the last 30 months being the driest on record, the state’s dependence on moving water is making it and British Columbian’s vulnerable to price spikes for fruits and vegetables.

Highlights
  • The current drought levels in California are a wake up call that B.C. needs to become more self-reliant to secure our access to healthy food for our future.
  • Drought has persisted in California over the past three years, with the majority of the state in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, the two worst categories.
  • In 2010, 67% of B.C. vegetable imports came from the U.S., over half of which were produced in California, including 95% of all broccoli and 74% of all lettuce.
  • Price increases of between 20% and 34% have been predicted for a variety of fruits and vegetables across North America this year due to the drought in California.
  • Between July 2103 and 2014, produce prices in B.C. have increased between 5.7% and 9.6%. If these trends continue for the next five years price increases of 25%-50% are predicted for many fruits and vegetables, adding an extra $30-$60 to the average B.C. household’s monthly grocery bill. For example: If broccoli was $2.36/lb the assumption is that if prices increase by 25% each year for five years, a pound of broccoli could cost up to $7.
  • In B.C. vegetable crop production fell by 20.4% between 1991 and 2011, with significant decreases in several staple crops. The on-going drought in California underscores the need to increase B.C.’s food self reliance, especially in regards to vegetables and fruits that B.C. is able to produce locally, yet has become dependent on California and other locations for.
  • For B.C. to have a resilient and secure food system that ensures access to affordable, healthy food in the midst of global challenges such as climate change, more must be done to support a local food system that increases food self-reliance, which also has other benefits.
  • With further support for and investment in the local food economy the $2.8 billion in total farm gate sales in B.C. in 2012, could potentially support up to $9 billion circulating in the local economy.
  • If the average B.C. household was to spend 50% of its grocery budget on local food, up to an extra $6,457 per family would circulate in the local economy.
  • Putting under-utilized small parcels of land near cities into production has the potential to play a significant role in meeting local consumption of vegetables and fruit six months of the year.

[Vancity, October 2014]