Supply and movement of iceberg lettuce within Ontario right now seem to be steady.
However, prices did jump a few weeks back on the vegetables. “They were talking about shortages, but then prices came right back down last week and are even lower than what they predicted at the beginning of the week,” says Richard Donsky of Mister Produce, based in Etobicoke, Ontario. “The prices I’m seeing for this week are pretty stable.”
That pricing is quite different from this time last year when a number of factors contributed to tight supply, including the Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus (INSV) in large swaths of the Salinas Valley for over three months. “When I compared pricing to this time last year, we’re over $100 cheaper per case,” adds Donsky, adding that Ontario, or even more specifically, Toronto, has its own produce market, which doesn’t always reflect what’s happening across North America on commodities right away.
As for the supply of iceberg lettuce, it has transitioned to the southern growing areas. “That’s done, and the northern areas are finished,” Donsky says. That said, he notes that sometimes the price spikes do happen in the lead-up to the U.S. Thanksgiving, though that’s more common in commodities directly related to Thanksgiving, such as celery.
As for demand, it’s steady for iceberg, though Donsky notes that iceberg is seeing a bit of a resurgence again within food service demand. “A lot of people weren’t eating it because there’s no nutritional value to it. However, it became the lettuce of choice again within some restaurants,” he says.
Donsky anticipates that iceberg lettuce pricing will stay where it is, barring any weather events affecting supply.