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US (CA): Growers harvest lettuce quickly to avoid damage

Sustained warm weather in the Salinas area has growers harvesting much of their lettuce in a short amount of time before it turns. That's made for an accelerated harvesting schedule, and that could lead to fewer supplies and higher prices in the near future.

“With current weather patterns, a lot of people worked the last seven days, through the weekend, because if they didn't harvest then they would lose what they had to sun scald or internal burn caused by the heat,” said Jason Lathos, manager of commodities for Church Brothers Produce. “So we had a mountain of lettuce that hit us in a very short period of time, and the reason was you either harvested it or lost it.” Harvesting of iceberg lettuce that was scheduled for November is taking place now, and harvesting for Romaine that should occur now took place in late September.

Out of the Salinas-Wattsonville area, iceberg lettuce was going for between $11.45 and $15.55 for a carton of 24s, and prices ranged between $13.95 and $17.65 for a carton of Romaine 24s. This sort of situation, with similar prices and a rush of supplies in October, happened two years ago, noted Lathos. What happened the following January, he said, was a gap in supplies. So the same situation could take place this year.

“I can see this market is going to get very active,” said Lathos. “Supplies will get tighter in the coming weeks, and then there will be some kind of gap when we finish Salinas and transition into Huron, which has a small growing area because of water issues. Then we go to Yuma, but I don't know that Yuma will have lettuce ready. A lot of times there's a seamless transition between these areas, and we're pretty good, as an industry, of covering any gaps. But I think we'll see big gaps this time, and we'll see that it have an effect on the market.”

For more information:
Jason Lathos
Church Brothers Produce
+1 800 799 9475

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