Pricing and demand of Romaine lettuce are off

Leafy green growers seem to be frustrated with the ongoing issues around food safety and romaine.

The leafy green and Caesar salad staple has made numerous headlines since April over E. Coli outbreaks which were ultimately connected with Romaine lettuce coming from the Yuma, Ariz. region. That said, with the outbreak affecting almost 200 people in 16 states, including causing five deaths, concerns from consumers over the food safety of the lettuce remain.

“Romaine is really down on demand,” says Marcos Perez of Innovative Produce, an organic grower in the Santa Maria Valley. “The market is off and consumption is off as well. Demand is way off.”

The harvest effect
As a result, growers such as Innovative are having difficulty harvesting its full crops. “And when we are harvesting everything, we are selling it at reduced levels just because the demand is off,” says Perez. “I think people still think the product isn’t completely safe. They are eating other products so consumption is off still.” 

While the product felt a small pick up in demand recently, overall it is a reduced demand time for California lettuces due to the rise of locally grown product. Not surprisingly, prices have been affected as well. “Head lettuce hasn’t been affected as much but pricing is all off with romaine,” says Perez.

Industry response
Perez hopes that the industry as a whole works to solve the food safety problems that have plagued it this year. “Otherwise, we’re all going to suffer from a demand perspective,” says Perez.

And the industry seems to be listening. Late last week, the Arizona and California leafy greens industries, the PMA, Western Growers, United Fresh, and other stakeholders announced the formation of a Leafy Greens Food Safety Task Force. The goal of the task force is to examine the entire food safety process and the group is said to be comprised of industry members, food safety experts, researchers and government representatives.

For more information:
Marcos Perez
Innovative Produce
Tel: +1 (805) 349-2714

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