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Ice continues to disrupt desert lettuce

Photos courtesy Markon

The Arizona/California desert region has dealt with volatile weather much of this winter, and it has continued into the edge of spring, causing prices to spike.

Markon Cooperative BB #:123315 sent an alert to buyers this morning that said growers are seeing ice on lettuce leaves for the second morning in a row after overnight lows in the low to mid 30°s.

Growers experienced harvesting, processing and loading delays.

“Warmer weather is forecast for the next few days, but will likely not be warm enough to spur on the kind of growth that is needed to increase case weights for lettuce items,” the alert said. “Expect light weights, tight supplies, and ongoing quality challenges related to all the erratic weather received over the last 5-6 weeks.”

Late last week, Markon said supplies should be lower than normal, which combined with rising demand, will cause prices to rise dramatically.

For instance, USDA reports iceberg lettuce carton prices averaging nearly $50, which is up from $10-20 per carton just a week ago.

Charts by Agtools

Romaine lettuce prices are also averaging close to $50 compared to $10-20 a month ago, but the rise has been more steady over the past month compared to iceberg’s quicker spike.

Markon expects lettuce volume to remain limited until Huron, CA, production begins in mid- to late March. The Salinas, CA, season is forecast to begin in early to mid-April.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services