Church Brothers Farms' Jason Lathos Provides Iceberg Lettuce Market Update

Church Brothers Farms' Jason Lathos Provides Iceberg Lettuce Market Update

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SALINAS, CA - When it comes to growing and harvesting fresh produce, the outcome of even the most organized, well-laid plans rests in the hands of Mother Nature. This is evidenced by the domestic Iceberg lettuce season and the significant impacts that lower temperatures have had on the production schedule and weights. So, to get more details, I spoke with Jason Lathos, Manager of Commodities at Church Brothers Farms.

Jason Lathos, Manager of Commodities, Church Brothers Farms“If you look at the last three years of the Iceberg market, it was very active at the end of the Salinas, California, growing season. Then, when the Yuma, Arizona, region picked up, the market got back to normal market conditions,” Jason begins. “This year was different. When we started Yuma, many people didn't have any other option but to kick things off earlier than normal because they ran out of product in Salinas.”

With suppliers transitioning to the Yuma region ahead of schedule, they are facing cooler temperatures and shorter days. In turn, this has led to slower progress in growing products because of frost and low ground temperatures on top of shorter harvesting windows due to limited daylight heading up to the winter solstice. However, quality has remained good despite these challenges.

Low temperatures in its Yuma, Arizona, growing region have caused lighter weights and limited supplies for Church Brothers Farms; however, quality remains good

“Cooler than normal temperatures down in the desert have made the lettuce smaller than normal, and overall weights have been lower than normal,” explains Jason. “So, you're seeing lettuce being packed in Yuma that is unheard of compared to normal specs.”

As weights have dropped, Jason informs me that he has seen wholesale demand dip while processor demand has risen, in effect, creating balance in the market.

In terms of pricing, he also details a significant spike over the last 8–10 weeks, once again due to lighter weights and lower yields per acre.

As weights have dropped, demand has shifted from wholesalers to processors

Moving forward, the normalization of the Iceberg market relies partially on the temperatures in the Yuma region, as Church Brothers will continue growing in the area until March. Jason's advice to retail and foodservice buyers in the meantime is to be patient and flexible.

“When the weather gets a little better, and the supplies get better, you'll see this market start to get back to normal ranges. But until we get better weather in the desert, I don't foresee things changing much because the pipeline is empty, and there are limited supplies. It's all in Mother Nature’s hands now,” he says.

For more updates on the Iceberg lettuce market and more, stick with AndNowUKnow.

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Church Brothers Farms

Church Brothers Farms is a vertically-integrated family owned and operated company that produces a full line of fresh…