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US West Coast boosts production on leeks
“We have really good supplies of leeks right now. We’ve had great supplies all year long,” says Frank Ratto of Ratto Bros Inc. in Modesto, Ca. The healthy amount of production is thanks to a few factors he notes. “We’ve planted a little bit more than last year because we did so well on them. But on top of that, the weather has been phenomenal in California this year. So normally we can’t plant too much in the winter time but we had very little rain this year,” says Ratto. Overall, Ratto estimates it has 20 per cent more leeks than it did last year at this time.
At the same time, demand is equally healthy. “We had a colder beginning to winter here in Northern California with 38 straight days of frost,” says Ratto. “So I think people are using leeks for leek soup, stews, and other savoy hot dishes. Demand always gets stronger with our product because people really like the quality of product we grow. They’re good sizing, good quality and have quite a bit of white on them.”
That puts pricing at a somewhat wide range—anywhere from $13-$22.50 range. “The $22.50 is a new price so maybe things are winding down in the desert or Mexico,” says Ratto. “In the spring when the weather vacillates from hot to cold and visa versa the plant gets confused. It doesn’t know whether to thrive or reproduce and the plant will develop a seed stem. Once this happens and it protrudes to the top of the leek, it’s no longer a marketable product.”
Looking ahead, Ratto anticipates things staying the same for the next few weeks until the produce industry transitions from the desert and Mexico back to the Salinas, San Joaquin Valleys, and Southern California growing regions. “But for now, it’s quiet in the produce industry,” Ratto says. “There’s not much going on with anything. It’s not surprising because the weather has been so good and there’s a glut of product out there.”
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