Reports: Romaine Lettuce Prices Rise and Supplies Tighten Surrounding Thanksgiving; Casey Mills, Cody Hontalas, Jason Lathos, and Brian Peixoto Comment
UNITED STATES - As of this Monday, November 29, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was reporting pricing ranging between $18.95 and $19 for a carton of size 24 Romaine lettuce. With this being slightly higher than previous trends, I got in touch with several industry members who gave me a read on current market conditions.
“As the desert growing season begins, organic Romaine production is currently a week and a half ahead of anticipated harvest date due to warm weather. Comparatively, overall organic Romaine acreage appears to be less than last year. As the weather cools heading into mid-December, we do anticipate supplies to tighten further in conjunction with the projected increase in demand for the Christmas holiday,” Casey Mills, Director of Sales at Braga Fresh Family Farms, told me.
Cody Hontalas, Sales Executive and Commodity Manager at Pacific International Marketing, explained some of the “whys” behind this tightening of supplies, and how regional transitions will bring a shift in the market.
“Over the last few months, most shippers had been dealing with Romaine shortages in the Salinas growing area due to disease, the most prominent being Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus (INSV). This really lowered yields out in the field and caused the market to react accordingly, which is why we saw such an increase in the price of Romaine industry-wide,” Cody stated. “Most of the industry's Romaine production is finally coming out of the desert. Product overall looks pretty clean with few problems to report.”
Additionally, Cody commented, “Overall demand for Romaine still seems to be up, which is causing the market to be fairly active, but we should start to see more Romaine become available as the weeks go on as most shippers will be hitting their stride in the desert.”
Church Brothers Farms’ Manager of Commodities Jason Lathos jumped on the phone with me to discuss how he anticipates the market will continue to shift.
“If you asked me what I would forecast for the Romaine market, I think the deal is going to stair-step down lower based on the last two-to-three-year formulae,” he said. “When you have really good growing conditions in the desert and colder weather back East, it usually makes for a soft market because you've got good supplies and demand shifts. When we get cold weather in the desert and warmer temperatures back East, the markets are usually higher because you have less supplies and higher demand. We're getting into that time of year where winter starts coming on the East Coast. West Coast supplies, as long as growing regions see good weather, increase and demand decreases. That movement usually means some slightly lower markets.”
Jason also added that demand was greater than anticipated surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday—a sentiment Brian Peixoto, Sales Manager at Lakeside Organic Gardens, echoes.
“We aren't seeing a whole lot of changes in the market. The price has been steady at $20 for a couple of weeks. We had a great Thanksgiving pull, but overall prices remain the same,” Brian added.
It sounds as though there are still changes yet to come for the ever-moving Romaine lettuce market. You can count on ANUK to share any news as it comes to light.