Expect to pay more for your salad

Vegetable prices, especially for lettuce and other leafy greens, are jumping, thanks to poor weather in the East.

By Bruce Kennedy Aug 6, 2013 3:04PM

Groceries (© Tetra Images/Corbis)People around the country -- but especially in the Eastern U.S. -- should expect to pay a bit more for the "L" in their next BLT.

The price of lettuce, leafy greens and other vegetables has risen steeply in recently weeks, as heavy rains and high temperatures in the East's growing states have ruined local crops there. But that poor harvest is turning into a financial windfall for growers in California and elsewhere out West.

The Los Angeles Times, quoting U.S. Department of Agriculture stats, says the national average retail price for a head of iceberg lettuce was $1.50 last Friday. A week earlier it was $1.04. A 24-count carton of iceberg lettuce sold for between $18.50 and $20 late last month -- compared with $10 to $11.50 per box during the same time last year.

"It's not just iceberg lettuce, it's our green leaf, romaine and butter lettuces. Everything has gone up in price," Gabriela D'Arrigo, sales and marketing manager for D'Arrigo Bros. in Salinas, Calif., told the L.A. Times. "Usually this time of year the East Coast buyers choose local. But they can't because of the terrible weather."

California growers had their own problems in the spring with overproduction, which dropped overall prices, and then later in the year as a heat wave damaged later crops. But while their business usually falls off in late summer, as Eastern vegetable crops are harvested, this year has been different, and California growers are scrambling to fill the demand.

“Usually this time of year is pretty slow for us and prices are at the bottom," Michael Boggiatto, president of Salinas-based Boggiatto Produce said last month in an interview with produce industry website, The Packer. "With the heat wave that's going through the country, the quality isn't there in the homegrown. Now it's our turn to fill the gap for customers."

"Green leaf is on fire," Mark McBride, a salesman for Coastline Produce, also in Salinas, told The Packer. "If you'd told anybody in Salinas that we'd be experience this kind of market in mid-July, they'd be pleasantly surprised," he added. "The homegrown deals on the East Coast, the Ohio Valley and upstate New York really got clobbered with rain."

Growers say it usually takes a harvest of lettuce about 75 days to get "from field to fork." But the market for vegetables is always hostage to weather conditions and can become very volatile.

"It's always kind of a roller coaster," Dave Kranz, spokesman for the California Farm Bureau, told the L.A. Times. "(California) farmers are now earning a profit, but before, they weren't. Many were selling at a loss before this situation in the East."

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Aug 6, 2013 4:23PM
I seriously don't understand the worth of these articles, when ALL PRICES are going up, and that's just how it's been for a while now. The cost of food is just plain nasty, and price increases of a few cents are unheard of ... things go up in leaps and bounds. I'm finding more and more items  that I just won't buy, as I can't justify spending the money ... even at Walmart.
Aug 6, 2013 4:34PM
I grew up on a farm and what was immediately apparent to me was that only the big money farmers got any help from subsidies or price supports. The small operators like us got NO HELP OF ANY KIND FROM THE GOVERNMENT. As usual - money talks.
On this economy everything's going sky-high from groceries to gasoline,and I feel I live in a third world country where things cost a whole lot more.I'm considering the idea of migrating someplace else ever since the US ceased to be an affluent country after 9/11.
Aug 6, 2013 5:04PM
And the FED doesn't want to count food inflation, regardless of the why. Don't look now but our food has sticky prices, fast to go up, but slow to come down.
Aug 6, 2013 6:10PM
That is so funny.  Name one thing that hasn't gone up in price!  And I mean by 30%-50%.
Aug 6, 2013 5:23PM

Lettuce may be high but a yellow, red, or orange pepper......  are $1.19-$1.29 each.

I'm not buying.

Aug 6, 2013 4:43PM
Aug 6, 2013 5:10PM
I have a small backyard veggie garden.  Cherry tomatoes and zucchini are usually prolific and easy to grow.  Even an apartment dweller could grow some things in pots.  Don't feel too sorry for farmers-they are so subsidized from the gov.  Used to live in an area that grew rice.  All the growers drove Mercedes.  We the public are the true losers
Aug 6, 2013 4:33PM
Ok First droughts last year ..........ok i understand this for increases

BUT NOW FRICKEN TO MUCH RAIN@------Dig some dam ditches and drain the water
Dont give us this bull shizz about more increases
Aug 6, 2013 3:46PM

They will probably soar when the laboratory meat hits the grocery chains.

Aug 6, 2013 4:39PM
yeah expensive as all get out, and that stuff harvested by illegals who wipe their butts with their fingers and keep on picking is killing our population....I would rather pay more for people with some sort or idea of hygiene to pick my veggies....and eat in peace...
Aug 6, 2013 4:25PM
Obama said this was phoney?  I am sure he is correct.
Aug 6, 2013 3:32PM
Exxon Mobil has gotten into the produce markets..........any excuse???
Aug 6, 2013 6:57PM
Aug 6, 2013 8:45PM
All goes to the price of fuel! We keep producing more fuel, but the price keeps going up! who's kidding who here!
Aug 6, 2013 8:19PM
Yep, salad is going up and killing us at the same time.  Like "ask your doctor" ads. 
Aug 6, 2013 11:41PM

nope, I won't be spending more on salad....when certain foods go up, I just buy less of those things and buy something else...sorry!

Aug 6, 2013 10:18PM
It amazes me how companies jack their price huge amounts and they always have some excuse...bad weather,fires ,whatever they can make up....when do we get to raise our incomes....we're the only people who can't raise things..Every company says they need more money,,how does the average guy who needs more money get it ?
Aug 7, 2013 6:23AM
This is why it's important to try and have your own garden.  Besides knowing what's happening in your own garden and not trusting your veggies to the crazy croppers, it's more cost effective.
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