Lettuce gaps expected from early season rains - The Packer

Lettuce gaps expected from early season rains

04/22/2011 01:56:00 PM
Mike Hornick

As Salinas Valley, Calif., vegetable harvesting hit full stride in mid-April, it remained unclear how big an impact unusually heavy spring rains will have on supplies of some commodities in the next couple of months.

“We expect production gaps,” said Tim York, president of Salinas, Calif.-based Markon Cooperative.

“Spring mix is a 30-day crop, and you could see that dip more immediately. Spinach is 45 or 50 days, lettuce 90. But nature has a way of filling out those gaps and compensating.”

The weather delayed plantings of romaine, cauliflower and broccoli scheduled for June harvest, said Samantha Cabaluna, director of communications for San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based Earthbound Farm.

“But … we will be able to manage harvests to minimize gaps,” she said.

“Baby leaf crops will not be an issue. Overall the rapid return to warm, dry weather is favorable and will let us get back in the fields quickly.”

Compensation may be harder to come by, though, for some growers operating near the Salinas River.

More than 3 inches of rain in one late March week produced a levee breach in Gonzales and old-fashioned flooding near Salinas.

D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California, for one, had about 300 acres affected. Others suffered comparable losses, but there’s been no official estimate yet of the acreage inundated.

“It will have a significant impact on our leaf product,” said Margaret D’Arrigo-Martin, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Salinas-based D’Arrigo Bros.

“Under the (California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement) we have to dry it out over a 60-day waiting period before we can plant. We’re looking at some gaps coming up.”

Sammy Duda, vice president of Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Oviedo, Fla., said the flooding incidents may be less telling than slowed planting and harvesting, which were more widespread.

“While there are individuals who were hurt in a significant way, the flooding won’t have much of an overall impact on supplies,” Duda said.

“But if you miss a week or 10 days in the field in March, it’s usually an issue. It’s entirely possible that at the end of May there’ll be a little hole in your program.”

Tanimura & Antle, Salinas, was among the growers who missed field time.

“We had a 10-day period where we got nothing planted,” said Rick Antle, chief executive officer.

“That will impact June. If the prior plants are late coming in, or later plantings come in early, you could see the gap mitigated.”

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