(March 30) Some heat-related problems that ushered an early end to the Yuma, Ariz., iceberg lettuce season will be evident in the short-lived Huron, Calif., crop, which serves as a transition between Yuma and the Salinas, Calif., deal.
On March 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported western Arizona iceberg prices were as high as $6.10 for a 24-count carton of unwrapped, but most were $4.85-5.25. Shippers said that was an increase from much of the late Yuma deal, with prices at $4.25.
Although Huron is seeing some quality problems, it’s nothing like the difficulty seen in the Yuma product during the last two weeks of the season, said Sammy Duda, vice president and general manager of Duda California/Gene Jackson Farms Inc., Salinas.
Duda California started the Huron deal as scheduled on March 29.
“Cutting, packing and sending to the cooler in high temperatures, it’s difficult to maintain the internal characteristics of the lettuce. That much heat is not good for the crop, in the ground or after cutting,” Duda said about Yuma. “To a lesser extent, it’s occurring in Huron. You’ve had a very warm period of time, and lettuce grows faster than you anticipate.”
Rib blight, a discoloration of the outer iceberg ribs, is appearing in the Huron deal, Duda said.
The Huron deal lasts for about three weeks, and Steve Davis, iceberg salesman for Mills Family Farms, Salinas, said he’s seeing strong demand.
Out of Huron, prices for unwrapped 24-count cartons were $5.25-6.25 mostly, Davis said. In Yuma, it was $4.25.
Frank Pinney, owner of Diamond Produce LLC, Salinas, said shippers hurried to beat the heat in Yuma, cutting acreage before it was lost to damage. That, and the startup of Huron is leading to an oversupply situation, said Pinney, whose company ships bulk iceberg and lettuce.
Arizona romaine demand was light on March 29, the USDA reported, with prices at $4.10-6.25 on 24-count cartons.
Last season, late March prices for the Imperial Valley were $4 for unwrapped 24-count cartons and $5.35-5.65 for film-wrapped cartons.
Yuma prices were up to $4.60 for unwrapped cartons and $6.60 for film-wrapped. Romaine prices were $6.60-7.60 on 24-count film-wrapped from Yuma, with a wide range in quality, and $6.10-6.85 per carton from the Imperial Valley.