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Columbus Produce Dealers Pay Higher Prices For Fruits and Vegetables.

Columbus area produce wholesalers today are negotiating with alternate suppliers to keep citrus fruits and some fresh vegetables available to Central Ohio consumers. A week-long freeze in California has destroyed an estimated billion dollars worth of perishable food.

Produce companies that keep area grocery stores and restaurants supplied today were scrambling to replace some of the west coast crops. Business owner, Joseph Mercurio, says already prices for lemons, strawberries, and navel oranges have spiked by double digits. "We are probably going to see an increase of anywhere from 25 to 35 percent here in the next week or ten days. And even our large suppliers are researching the possibilities of buying lemons out of the country, buying oranges out of the country." Says Mercurio.

Shoppers and restaurant diners could pay even more at the retail level. Mercurio says while most of the attention has focused on the loss of California citrus, damage is also extensive among row crops.

Mercurio predicts consumers will have to pay the higher produce prices for at least a month. In the meantime he says wholesalers in Ohio and other states are looking to Argentina and other South American countries to shore up supplies.