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Iceberg pricing jumped throughout October

A corner is being turned on the tight supplies of iceberg lettuce.

“We’ve had exceptionally limited supplies for the past three weeks. That has to do with yield issues in the Salinas area--we’ve had a number of soil disease issues in the fall for the last couple of years and they were even worse this year,” says Mark McBride of Coastline Family Farms in Salinas, CA. The issues stem from both warmer days and warmer nights allowing issues like these to develop. “And these diseases--it ranges from mild to moderate damage to complete fields being destroyed. If your field is on the younger side, you go get what you can get before the soil diseases come and take it away from you.”

While the recent California rains don’t necessarily factor into the shortage, it also didn’t help given it made fields difficult to get through. “It delayed harvest for more than two days in some areas, depending on how much rain they got,” says McBride.

Shifting regions
However, Salinas volumes will likely wrap up this week and there’s already iceberg lettuce coming out of Yuma, AZ and Huron, CA as well as limited volume coming out of Oxnard, CA. McBride says all producers should be in business in Yuma as of Nov. 15.

Not surprisingly, prices have escalated rapidly throughout October. While the month started with pricing at $18-$22 for iceberg lettuce, the market currently sits at $50-$52 where it’s been for the last week to 10 days. “And the higher prices have led to slower business. With the market being fragmented between multiple areas, it’s a real mixed unsettled situation right now,” says McBride.

However he adds that the market is correcting itself now. “What level it’s going to get to and how fast or slow it’s going to correct, that’s impossible to know,” he says. “But we’ve seen this cycle where with higher prices, people walk away and once FOBs and retail prices return to normal, they’ll come back. They always do.”

For more information:
Mark McBride
Coastline Family Farms
Tel: +1 (831) 755-1430
mark@coastlinefamilyfarms.com 
www.coastlinefamilyfarms.com 


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