California lettuce crop returns to normal supply

06/29/2011 11:12:00 AM
Andy Nelson

California lettuce grower-shippers reported a more normal beginning to summer after an abnormally cool and wet spring.

With spring growing woes fading, Salinas, Calif.-based Coastline Produce looks forward to a productive summer, said Mark McBride, sales manager.

“We’ve moved past the planting gap issues from the cold, wet weather, particularly in late March,” McBride said June 27. “We have good supplies. Nice condition and color.”

Despite temperatures that were still lower than normal for late June, McBride said the forecast boded well for the first half of July.

“There should be no issues for at least the next few weeks.”

The unseasonable Salinas Valley weather continued into June, with rain at a time of year when it’s very rare, said Michael Boggiatto, president and general manager for Salinas-based grower Boggiatto Produce.

But despite that, Boggiatto Produce also has seen its romaine volumes return to more typical summer levels, Boggiatto said.

“Volume has picked up a bit and is fairly normal now,” he said. “The quality issues are leveling off.”

In late June iceberg supplies were more abundant than supplies of romaine and leaf lettuces, McBride said.

“Supplies have really snugged up in the course of the last week, and they should be tight for two, maybe three weeks,” he said.

Romaine prices, for instance, jumped from $6-7 per box to $9-10 by the last week of June, McBride said.

“It’s been a welcome change,” he said.

On June 28, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $8.45-9.50 for carton 24s of romaine from the Salinas Valley, up from $5-6 last year at the same time.

Boggiatto said romaine prices wouldn’t likely change much, however, in July.

“The market is in the doldrums of summer, which is pretty typical,” he said. “There’s a lot of product around the country. Demand is middle to low.”

California iceberg should be highly promotable in July as the Golden State competes with locally grown deals across the U.S., McBride said.

“It always has a downward effect on f.o.b.s,” he said.

On June 28, the USDA reported prices of $7.35-8.50 for carton 24s of iceberg from Salinas, down from $10.55-11.65 last year at the same time.

Steve Church, director of sales at Salinas-based Church Bros. LLC, said the company’s summer iceberg acreage is off about 5% because of demand for locally grown.

“So far, yields are pretty good,” Church said. “Business is good, though ma



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