Lettuce Gap Means Prices Likely To Stay High Through May
- by Jordan Okumura
SALINAS, CA - It is continuing to be a tight lettuce market as we move further into May with a gap looming for some, if not already here for most. With an increased demand for high-quality lettuce and leafy greens, we could be in for a rollercoaster ride of price fluctuations as we continue through the month of May.
Martin Jefferson, Production Manager, for Duda Farm Fresh Foods, tells me that, “While volumes may be lighter, and the gap is here, if not around the corner, the in-field quality across all commodities is excellent. There are little bits of sunburn caused by the short heat waves this spring, but not enough to be significant.”
On the gap front, Duda does its best to plan for the anticipated shortages with a number of processes on the harvest end. Whether it's evolving the fields to push some of the harvest further down the line or identify the fields that they can begin harvesting earlier to help close the gap, the company is always working to bring a quality supply to customers.
Labor has also been a challenge, Martin notes. “While the quality has been great, we have had to bypass small amounts of product for the sake of optimizing our labor resources and maintaining full, productive crews in order to reduce the potential of a labor shortage for ourselves.”
Caitlin Antle Wilson, Sales and Marketing Director for Tanimura & Antle, gave me a read on the industry this week, and what we can expect in the near future. “The gap is here and lettuce will be tight for 2-3 weeks,” she said.
“The East Coast local deal, mainly in New Jersey for Boston Lettuce as an example, will not be coming on for about two to three more weeks. The region usually comes on in the early to mid part of May. So, with that being said, the local deal that usually lets us catch our breath will be late this year. This could lead to prices that will stay high because of demand,” Caitlin continues.
In addition, Boston Lettuce seems to be incredibly tight as the item is trending more this year on the East Coast, in the New York area in particular. Also, it has been a colder week in Salinas, California, where many vegetable growers have their operations, slowing down growth.
Coastline’s Mark McBride tells me that the unusually mild, dry conditions that occurred during January, February & early March brought all of the company’s commodities on ahead of schedule- by about 10-21 days.
“After our warm late-winter temps, we are experiencing a much cooler than normal weather pattern, this has slowed growth of upcoming fields and helped to create a shortage of several items including: green & red leaf lettuces, celery & cauliflower. We anticipate lighter volume on head lettuce & broccoli in the next couple weeks as well so stay tuned as the tight market continues,” Mark says.
Stay tuned to AndNowUKnow as we follow the lettuce market in May, as well as the many other hot categories that keep us on our toes.