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Lettuce Shortage Caused by Weather Woes Drives up Prices

Image: Lettuce Shortage Caused by Weather Woes Drives up Prices

Rain clouds form over a lettuce field in Salinas Valley, California on Feb. 8, 2014. (Ken Wolter/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Wednesday, 26 Apr 2017 10:50 AM

A lettuce shortage created by too much rain this season for California farmers is leaving salad supplies short-handed for several weeks.

Farmers were hit with a double-whammy this season -- warmer-than-usual weather causing the winter growing season to end early along with heavy rain, which pushed back planting in coastal regions of California, Bloomberg reported.

Wholesale prices for lettuce and broccoli have jumped since news of crops' shortfall spread. The Chicago Tribune reported that the weather also caused a shortage of cauliflower and celery.

"It hit us hard," said Steve Jarzombek, vice president of produce for Milwaukee area-based Roundy's stores, according to the Tribune. "No one likes a shortage because they cause all sorts of challenges. You don't want to charge the customer any more than you have to."

Jim Conwell, spokesman for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, told the Tribune that in the past eight to 10 weeks, the price per case of romaine and other lettuces more than tripled per case and celery has nearly doubled.

"Kale and cabbage have remained more affordable, so we're purchasing and distributing more of those items to ensure that fresh produce distributions like our Fresh Truck have greens in the mix," Conwell told the Tribune. "We'll also bring in other nutritious items that happen to be less expensive, including peppers, beets, and sweet potatoes."

In Columbia, South Carolina, the price of lettuce has jumped from 98 cents to 2.99 for a head of iceberg lettuce, and from $1.29 to $2.89 for non-organic red and green leaf lettuce, according to The State newspaper.

In New York, basic iceberg is selling at $5.99 a head at the Gristedes at 103rd St. and Broadway while romaine hearts top out at $7.99, the New York Daily News reported.

"We have noticed a big spike in prices," Ann Herpel, general coordinator of the Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn, told the New York Daily News. "At this time of year, we're reliant on food coming out of California. The rains have made it either impossible to grow to harvest."

After years of drought, California has been hit with abnormally high winter rainfall, restricting the availability of some leafy greens, Timothy Hartz, an extension agronomist at University of California, Davis, told Bloomberg.

"People just tend to eat more of these things nowadays, because people are more health wise," Christine Lensing, specialty crops economist at Greenwood Village, Colorado-based CoBank, said, according to Bloomberg. "That's why these supply interruptions are felt so much more through the marketplace."

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A lettuce shortage created by too much rain this season for California farmers is leaving salad supplies short-handed for several weeks.
lettuce, shortage, weather, prices
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2017-50-26
Wednesday, 26 Apr 2017 10:50 AM
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