Lettuce supplies could tighten with transition to desert - The Packer

Lettuce supplies could tighten with transition to desert

10/02/2013 03:44:00 PM
Andy Nelson

California lettuce supplies could tighten as the Salinas deal winds down.

After some chaos at the end of September, lettuce markets were settling down in October, said Jason Lathos, commodities manager for Salinas, Calif.-based Church Bros. LLC.

“Last week supplies were a little unsettled,” Lathos said Oct. 2. “Some (grower-shippers’ supplies) were lighter, some heavier. The market was up and down, and it was uncertain where it would settle. It’s gotten better this week.”

On Oct. 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $12.56-13.75 for film-lined cartons 24s of iceberg from Salinas, up from $7.45-8.14 last year at the same time.

Michael Boggiatto, president of Salinas-based Boggiatto Produce Inc., said a strong summer has transitioned into a good start to the fall romaine deal.

“We have pretty good supplies and pretty good demand,” he said. “Things are rolling along. The difficult weather everywhere else in the U.S. helped get (demand for California product) up. Normally summer is a struggle, but this year things have gone well, and I don’t see any pitfalls going forward.”

Boggiatto reported typical weekly volumes out of Salinas at the beginning of fall.

Yields in the Salinas Valley were down 20-30% because of losses to mildew, bitter rot and other quality-related issues, Lathos said.

In addition, pounds per acre were lower than usual for early fall.

There could be gap this season, Lathos said, between the end of the Salinas lettuce deals and the beginning of the Huron deals. If that happens, markets will likely strengthen.

Also adding to that upward pressure will be increased demand from Canada and the Eastern U.S., because of diminishing supplies from the Ohio Valley and other local deals.

“They’ve been out (of the California market) for three months, and now they’re back,” Lathos said.

Church Bros. expects to begin harvesting in Huron around Oct. 21, Lathos said. Because of water issues, acreage could be down as much as 25-50% in the Huron area this year, he said.

Boggiatto Produce expects its typical transition around Thanksgiving from Salinas to the Imperial Valley, Boggiatto said.

Long-term, Colorado River basin water availability could have a significant effect on desert acreage, but it shouldn’t affect this season’s romaine crop, Boggiatto said.



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