Winter rain causes lettuce shortage, drives up prices

Market experts with a distributor called Produce Express said that prices usually spike about this time of year because it's planting season for leafy greens, but all of the rain has delayed that. (April 14, 2017)

Most days you’ll find produce manager Bruce Kushadi, 60, arranging fresh fruits and vegetables and assisting customers at Taylor Market.

He’s been working at the small corner grocery store for the past 30 years, but his career didn’t start there – Kushadi began working for his father, helping out with a fruit stand, when he was 10 years old.

In his more than 40 years working in the fruits and vegetables business, hasn’t seen leafy green prices spike like they did over the last three weeks.

"All lettuces. Red leaf, romaine, iceberg, a lot of the broccoli,” Kushadi said.

For example, the price of a two pack of romaine hearts at Talor Market has gone from $1.99 to $3.79.

A shortage in product brought on by the crop “transition” season coupled with heavy West Coast rains have delayed new crop plants, said Scott Rose, a market expert with Produce Express, a fruit and vegetable distributor.

Crop transitions typically happen twice per year, once around Easter and again at Thanksgiving. Crops are transitioned from the Northern Salinas Valley to the Southern desert region of Southern California and Arizona.

Crops in the Southern region matured early this year which produced lower than normal prices during the early Winter months, according to Produce Express. However, the rainy season that brought California out of a historic drought has also delayed the planting of leafy greens.

The crops effected by the gap include romaine, romaine hearts, green leaf, red leaf, butter lettuce, iceberg, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, baby spinach, spring mix (and its ingredients), as well as arugulas.

Rose said lettuce prices should get back to average by early May. 

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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