Lettuce prices are likely to rise next month and could stay high deep into the summer, agriculture experts say. The flooding in a key California farming area becomes the latest example of extreme weather’s effect on the food chain.
The Salinas Valley, where a vast amount of lettuce and other produce eaten in North America is grown every year, has seen severe rain and storms since the beginning of the year, said John Bishop, national buyer for produce distributor Fresh Start Foods.
All that extra water has flooded fields and delayed planting, Bishop said, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in crop damage. “It’s been very concerning,” he said.
Tens of thousands of acres of farmland have flooded in Salinas since the beginning of the year, Mark Shaw, vice president of operations for California-based Markon Cooperative, said in an email. Below-average temperatures are adding to farmers’ struggles, he added.
Salinas is the same region where disease struck lettuce crops last fall, creating severe shortages and persistently high prices in iceberg and Romaine lettuce that caught the attention of Canadian consumers at grocery stores. It was a situation Bishop said he’s never experienced in his many years in the produce business.
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