Drought Drives Up Prices: The most serious drought in the nation’s recent history is driving up consumer prices and threatens to slow economic growth, analysts and economists said. Abnormally hot and dry weather this summer has damaged about 10% of the nation’s rice paddies and vegetable farms and killed hundreds of thousands of head of livestock. As a result, the prices of red peppers, cucumbers, cabbage, garlic and other farm products have more than doubled in the last month. Meat prices have also soared, but not quite as much as vegetable prices. Some companies have cut back production, and two paper manufacturers were forced to suspend operations.