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Fluctuating Arizona temperatures push prices to spike on lettuce

“Things are pretty tough on lettuce out here.”

So says Mark McBride of Coastline Family Farms in Salinas, CA of the lettuce markets out of Yuma, AZ right now which have seen escalating prices thanks to swinging weather patterns. “There’s a lot of small iceberg lettuce right now. Typically the majority of what we all pack are 24 heads in a regular carton. Because of the weather conditions we’ve had--it’s alternating hotter than normal with cooler than normal--it’s made a lot of small lettuce and we’re able to pack 30 to a carton,” he says. In turn, that has put pressure on the carton market but also the value-added lettuce market and the issue is happening in heads of romaine lettuce as well.

Yet, quality doesn’t look to be affected. “Typically at this time of year it’s ideal growing conditions and while there’s a bit of associated blister and peel that comes with the cold weather, quality in general is good,” says McBride.

In turn, limited supplies have helped demand for lettuces feel stronger. “There are also some reports of soil disease that have started cropping up in the later fields. I’m seeing pictures of some fields that have had pretty substantial plant loss. It hasn’t manifested itself 100 percent yet but it’s out there,” he says.

Prices climbing
This has all led to stronger pricing on lettuces. “Just last week and in the space of a week, we added over $20 to the average price on a carton of lettuce,” says McBride. While prices a few weeks ago were in the mid to high teens, today lettuce prices range from $48-$50/24 size cartons and $40-$50/30-size cartons. “Last week was an extremely volatile week. Prices inflated daily and it’s pretty unusual circumstances to see this fast of an upward rise in the market.”

The limited iceberg deal has also put additional demand on other types of lettuce. “This includes romaine, green leaf, butter and red leaf lettuce. All of those have seen quite an improvement in the markets over the last 10 days,” adds McBride.

So how much longer will this market be elevated? “At least the next week to 10 days will be very very questionable as to what size of lettuce we’ll have,” says McBride. “We’re four to five weeks away from finishing the desert and I’ve heard from other companies that the situation may not be normal all the way through the transition period back up to Salinas.”

For more information:
Mark McBride
Coastline Family Farms
Tel: +1 (831) 755-1430
[email protected]