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Irma could affect local food prices

Irma could affect local food prices

BALTIMORE (WBFF) - It’s possible both Harvey and Irma will rank among the costliest hurricanes in United States history, with a combined estimated economic impact nearing $300 billion.

Economists believe the devastation, particularly in Florida, may impact prices at the grocery store, especially along the Atlantic coast.

Produce including citrus fruit, especially oranges, are a major part of Florida’s economy.

“We definitely expect to see food prices, especially produce prices, begin to rise in the short term,” said Daraius Irani, a chief economist at Towson University.

The impact will depend on the amount of devastation in Florida, which is still being assessed.

Based on preliminary assessments, Irani estimates these food prices may remain higher through the holiday season.

He said by how much is dependent upon the amount of crop lost, as well as how long it will take to regrow the crop.

“If the citrus trees were ruined, those take a lot longer to regrow,” explained Irani. “That may be a longer-term impact. You might see orange or grapefruit prices higher than they are now.”

Irani pointed to a potential silver lining, adding an expected boost in these food prices may prompt people in the Baltimore area to buy more locally.

“People may begin to realize that maybe they can buy fresh fruit that’s in season here in Maryland at a farmer's market rather than try to buy something that may be a bit more pricey at the supermarket," he said.

The price of food isn’t the only thing economist expect to rise as result of these latest hurricanes. Other potential spikes include construction prices due to the demand in workers and raw materials needed to rebuild.

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