SALINAS, Calif. — As Salinas Valley vegetable production resumed in full force in mid-April, favorable growing weather and high volumes clamped a tight lid on markets for everything but cauliflower.
In the just-completed winter deal in Yuma, Ariz., shifting extremes of heat and cold had choked the pipeline for many commodities. That sent f.o.b. prices on 24-count cartons of romaine, for one, up to around $35 as February began, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
By April 15, the same item shipped for just $6.56-7.95 for most buyers. The Yuma prices were a distant memory. Welcome to Salinas.
“Lettuce is coming off a pretty good correction from the desert,” said Henry Dill, sales manager for Salinas-based Pacific International Marketing.
“The markets are in the $7-8 range on leaf and head lettuce. Those are the levels we had to deal with last year during the summertime, and it wasn’t much fun.”
“We didn’t think we were going to have the sky-high markets that we had in the desert, but it turned out to be a little lackluster compared to what we thought would happen,” said Mark McBride, salesman for Salinas-based Coastline Produce.
Coastline finished up its transitional Huron deal and was fully in Salinas by April 17.
Mark Adamek, general manager for romaine and mixed leaf production for Tanimura & Antle, said he anticipates promotable supplies of lettuce through the summer.
“For this time of year for lettuce to be $7-10 depending on the variety, my gut feeling is that the deal has to be overplanted,” Adamek said.
“The homegrowns haven’t kicked in yet and the East Coast is no longer buried in 6 feet of snow.”
Broccoli was a different story — but only briefly. Cartons of bunched 14s shipped in late March from Salinas were around $14, and 20-pound loose crown cut went for around $16, Dill said.
By April 15, the bunched was just $6.25-7.50 and the crown cut mostly $7.35-8.50, according to the USDA.
“There were lighter supplies during the transition to Salinas, a little gap in the supply and the markets on both broccoli and cauliflower showed it,” said Sammy Duda, vice president of Duda Farm Fresh Foods.
“It got warm in the desert, which hastened the end of that crop. The crop here was a few days behind and so it was just not a smooth transition.”
“Cauliflower is red hot,” Duda said.
That market didn’t back down as quickly as broccoli. Cartons of film-wrapped white 12s were mostly $19.55-20.50 in mid-April, little changed or even slightly higher than a few weeks before.