The romaine lettuce market has had some external challenges the past few years from FDA advisories and recalls to restaurants closing nationwide and then opening back up slowly.
But spring and summer volume this year after the pandemic started has been fairly steady and similar to the past two seasons.
The F.O.B. market has seen some fluctuation, mainly due to weather issues in Central California, but it’s not usual compared to past seasons.
The market may be rising again thanks to a heat wave and strong consumer demand.
VOLUME FROM MAY 1ST THRU AUGUST 16TH 2020
Volume seems steady with a slight downward trend, said Raul Lopez, agronomist and vice president of Agtools Inc. BB #:355102
Blue Book has teamed with Agtools Inc., the data analytic service for the produce industry, to look at a handful of crops and how they’re adjusting in the market during the pandemic.
This is very similar to the two previous years. Total volume during this period has not increased or decreased compared to 2019 and 2018. The market seems to be fulfilled.
MARKET BEHAVIOR IN THE LAST 4 MONTHS OF 2019 and 2018
Total market in 2018 and 2019 was very steady, with close to 40 million pounds per week, only with a decrease in November 2018 due to an FDA advisory Thanksgiving week, but the market recovered very fast. This effect was not present in 2019, despite more food safety challenges, Lopez said.
Based on the trend of the last 90 days, it is not expected to have any significant changes for the rest of the year.
F.O.B. PRICE OF CONVENTIONAL CENTRAL CALIFORNIA ROMAINE 24S
Prices in the last 90 days have been very active, Lopez said. In May the price was close to $10, but in the second half of June, the market reacted, increasing to $26 for few days and has been unstable since fluctuating between $14-22. This is similar behavior as in 2019 during the same months.
F.O.B. PRICE DURING LAST QUARTER OF 2019
In the last 4-month period of 2019, prices were very active, September was steady, but when approaching the fall months, prices traditionally jump up, he said. This may be due demand increasing in those months and a declining volume.
NEW YORK TERMINAL MARKET PRICE
Terminal prices in New York in the last 90 days for California conventional romaine, increased from the range of high $10s up to $30 in mid-June, Lopez said. After that, the market has fluctuated around $30 per case. This effect has been observed in the previous years, but in 2020 with higher prices.
RETAIL PRICES IN THE NORTHEAST REGION
Retail price in 2020 has been in the same range as in 2019 in the last 90 days, with small and short jumps in mid-May and mid-June, Lopez said. Lately prices are the lowest of the season at close to $1 each.
Romaine lettuce during the summer is basically grown in Central California. A small amount comes from Mexico and Southern California. Total market size is 576 million pounds for the last 90 days, very similar to 2019.