Romaine market rises with temperature

07/09/2012 08:10:00 AM
Mike Hornick

SALINAS, Calif. — Prices for California lettuce rose or held steady through the Fourth of July holiday week, when delivery slowdowns typically take a bite out of demand.

It didn’t happen this year, thanks to weather problems facing Canadian and U.S. homegrown deals.

Mike HornickRomaine soaks up sunlight in late June near Spreckels, Calif.“Romaine seems hardest hit,” said Mike Downey, director of purchasing at Salinas-based Markon Cooperative, on July 5. “Lettuce had issues with a recent storm in Canada and heat that’s caused some supply issues in the Eastern regional deals, and those have pushed up our markets in the last few days.”

Prices on most 24-count cartons of romaine ran $9.56 to $10.55 on July 5, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That was up from $7.45 to $9.45 the week before. Romaine hearts went $12.25 to $14.05 for a dozen three-count packages, up from $9.95 to $11.50. Iceberg film-lined 24-count cartons were mostly $7 to $8, showing little change.

“The hot weather throughout the country could certainly have an effect on some of the local homegrown markets,” said Don Klusendorf, director of sales and marketing at Santa Maria-based Bonipak Produce Co.

Salinas grower-shippers customarily reduce lettuce acreage when competing with East Coast crops during summer. If competitors suffer, California may not be able to quickly cover any shortage that results.

“We’ve been at the top end of the market for romaine and it still seems to be gathering strength,” said Mark McBride, sales manager at Salinas-based Coastline Produce.

Iceberg markets have been depressed in recent months, but grower-shippers remain hopeful that demand there will pick up as well.



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