Prices spike with low Central Valley lettuce supplies

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Prices spike with low Central Valley lettuce supplies

Vegetable yields are down in the California’s Central Valley. And FOB prices have shot through the roof.

Given the big production shortage, Chris Reade, vice president of sales for Produce West, Inc., in Salinas, said Central Valley salad processors are buying all the lettuces they can. Thus, the supply shortage and subsequent high prices are not due to consumer demand.

For three years, Central Valley lettuce and leafy greens growers have battled Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus (INSV), which is a plant pathogenic virus. Hot weather three weeks ago really activated INSV damage. But the influence of the disease begins with the outset of summer.

In mid-October, yields were down as much as 50% below full production.

Oct. 11, Reade says that “the industry is reaching some peak pricing.”

Iceberg lettuce was in the range of $62-64 per box. Romaine and green leaf lettuce were both going for $55. Red leaf lettuce was in the $45 range and romaine hearts were in the realm of $48-50 per box.

He adds that bunch broccoli is $22-25 and broccoli crowns are $35-40 a box. 

“Those are big numbers out there,” Reade notes. The prices are not necessarily record highs, but they are remarkably high. Some growers have expedited harvest to save healthy product before it fell victim to INSV.

Salinas is a month from finishing, which is about normal, Reade indicates. But Salinas’ production will end weakly before California’s vegetable deal moves to Huron.

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