SALINAS, Calif. — California lettuce grower-shippers expect production to rebound quickly from cool, wet weather that pelted the Huron and Salinas districts in the second week of April. “We’re in a little bit of a lull volumewise for the next week to 10 days,” Doug Classen, sales manager for The Nunes Co., said April 18. “It slowed down harvesting during the week but overall there wasn’t a day we didn’t get at least something,” Classen said. “We adjusted our schedule to get everything we needed out of the fields.” Nunes had already transitioned romaine and leaf lettuces from Huron to Salinas and expected to start iceberg production there the week of April 23. Mark Adamek, general manager for romaine, mixed leaf and Artisan lettuce production at Salinas-based Tanimura & Antle, expected his transition from Huron to be complete the same week. “The quality looks good,” Adamek said. “There is some bacterial spot splashed up on the plants by heavy droplets of rain. It beats it up and makes it look bad, but goes away quickly. There’s not enough to threaten shortages.” By April 18, Salinas had already enjoyed a few days of sunshine. “It slowed down a bit and stacked up in the rain,” Adamek said. “Now that the weather’s turning, it’ll come back hard. We’ll pay for the slowdown. High volume is on its way.” Big volumes wouldn’t come as happy news to grower-shippers after enduring a winter of stagnant pricing. “Even though supplies look like they’re going to be off, demand is not what I’d expect given all that’s happened, especially after being rained out of two days of production last week,” Mark McBride, sales manager for Coastline Produce, said April 18. “All shippers believe any type of excess supply situation sets up a perfect opportunity for retail outlets to take advantage, drop the price, move a lot of product and get more people in the store buying reasonably priced iceberg lettuce,” McBride said. “We grow the product and we love to harvest it all, but it’s also got to be at some rate where we at least cover our basic costs.” As Huron wound down, about 2 inches of rain fell throughout the district. “The lettuce sucked up some moisture and pushed some acres out of harvestability,” McBride said. “There might be a light spot in the next several days, but the two deals are dove-tailing smoothly. With the moisture we got in Salinas coupled with warming temperatures it’s going to help bring on lettuce a few days early here.” Romaine lettuce prices on 24-count cartons out of Salinas ran mostly $9-10.40 on April 18, up from $7.69-8.55 the week before, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But year-ago prices were $15.50-17.56. Iceberg lettuce prices on film-lined 24-count cartons were mostly $10.35-11.50 on April 18. A year ago they were $11-12.
Rain just a hiccup for California lettuce
04/19/2012 05:33:00 PM