Homegrown crops fizzle, stoking lettuce demand - The Packer

Homegrown crops fizzle, stoking lettuce demand

07/20/2012 02:18:00 PM
Mike Hornick

“Pricing has been difficult over the last six months or so,” said Don Klusendorf, director of sales and marketing at Santa Maria-based Bonipak Produce Co. “There has been an oversupply, which should not be a surprise. A lot of people grew things on speculation, and there will be a natural adjustment in the marketplace in the next six to 12 months.”

“We’re just getting off a depressed market,” Doug Classen, sales manager at Salinas-based The Nunes Co., said. “Signs are things will tighten up in the next few weeks and get some decent markets brewing. We’ve had different areas on homegrown reach out to us looking for product.”

“We’ve been so much below break-even for the last six months, it looks like we’re making a million dollars now,” Dill said. “We’re just seeing a little relief. At this point I’ve got to believe we have a shot, maybe in the fall.”

Iceberg lettuce demand rose more gradually than romaine. “We’re running into a wide range of prices,” Mark McBride, sales manager at Salinas-based Coastline Produce, said. “It hasn’t been anything to get too excited about, but at least movement has been very good.”

“We’re right on top of our fields, and that’s a victory in itself,” McBride said. “We’re harvesting them a bit on the young side. There are reports of bigger, overripe lettuce out there, and luckily we have not been in that category.”

Longer term, other lettuces continue to outpace iceberg for sales growth.

“We’ve seen strong growth over the past year in romaine and green leaf,” said Mike Downey, director of purchasing at Salinas-based Markon Cooperative. Romaine and green leaf were up 10% to 15% annually, iceberg 2% or less, Downey said.

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