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Temporarily light supply offers strong lettuce and leaf demand


Texas and Northwest onion shippers are seeing good demand on red onions and fairly good demand on yellow onions. Russet shippers are experiencing moderate to slightly less carton demand, while lettuce and leaf shippers are seeing good demand on temporarily light volume.



The severity of the rain storms that hit California’s Central Coast the first two weeks of April was highly unusual for this time of the year. The strength and amount of rainfall from a storm like this is usually seen during the mid-winter months. High pressure returned April 14 bringing much-needed clear skies and warmer temperatures.

Daytime highs in Salinas were expected to briefly reach the mid-80s the weekend of April 21, and rain is not in the near-term forecast.

Lettuce prices increased the weeks of April 2 and April 9 as storm after storm produced unwanted rain. The rains negatively affected quality in some of the Huron acreage. In some instances, quality was such a concern that growers opted not to harvest. Shippers looked to Salinas for relief in early April, but the crop was not ready.

The lettuce harvest was in transition from Huron to Salinas the week of April 16. The first Salinas lettuce was harvested April 16 and initial production was very light. The last Huron lettuce was expected to be harvested April 21. All shippers will be operating in Salinas by Monday, April 23.

The recent return of dry and warmer weather in Salinas didn’t arrive a moment too soon. Shippers are hoping the current dry and windy conditions will quickly dry the lettuce fields and maintain good quality.

Odds are that Salinas lettuce production will be close to normal beginning April 23 and overall quality will be outstanding by April 26-27.

The recent rise in the lettuce market has topped near current levels and should ease moderately the final week of April. The near-term market will offer the last Huron lettuce, which is noticeably less than the first new-crop supplies from the Salinas.


As with Iceberg lettuce, unwanted rains fell the first two weeks of April and jeopardized both quality and availability of leaf lettuce. The recent return of dry and warmer weather was not a moment too soon. All shippers will be harvesting leaf in Salinas by April 23. Salinas volume and quality is expected to be good by April 26-27. The recent rise in the market has topped at current levels and should moderate during the week of April 23.



The transition from the desert to California’s Central Coast is complete. Available acreage and supplies from Salinas and Santa Maria are ample and early-season quality is excellent.

The recent deluge of rain along California’s Central Coast temporarily interrupted the broccoli harvest and tightened supplies. Clear skies have since returned and daytime highs in Salinas were expected to reach the upper 70s to mid-80s April 20-22. Broccoli supplies are expected to be ample and reasonably priced the week of April 23.

Buyers will continue to have a wide selection of sizes from which to choose, including good availability of Asian-cut broccoli crowns.



Oxnard, CA, produces nearly 80 percent of the nation’s celery. This high percentage will remain steady until Santa Maria harvest begins in early May. The focus will stay in Oxnard and Santa Maria until Salinas starts in early June.

Oxnard growers and shippers have warned for several weeks that April celery has a substantial seeder problem. Seeders naturally occur mid-spring when the interior portion of the stalk pushes upward and outward to reproduce. Oxnard growers are alarmed that this season’s seeder problem started the first week in April and fear it will increase in severity as May approaches. Growers combat seeders by entering the fields early before the stalks push. The result is typically higher celery prices due to decreases in both production volume and stalk size.

It’s somewhat perplexing that the celery market hasn’t yet reacted higher as a result of the significant seeder problem. A large Oxnard celery shipper recently stated, “We’re beginning to walk past fields and disc acreage due to the severity of this year’s seeder problem. Prices would be considerably higher if demand wasn’t so soft. This market will rise quickly if, and when, demand increases.”



Navel supplies have quickly declined over the past few weeks and the remaining late-season fruit is in the hands of very few shippers. The pending Valencia crop is not in position to compensate for the Navel shortfall and the orange market is in a demand-exceeds-supply situation on foodservice sizes.

To make matters worse, the recent heavy rains in California’s Central Valley tightened the already-dwindling Navel supplies. Late-season Navel sizing is lopsided and the fortunate shippers with product are heaviest to 72s and 56s. The foodservice 88s, 113s and 138s are essentially nonexistent.

The upcoming Valencia crop is delayed because sugar levels are too low to make grade. The Valencia crop will not offer any degree of market relief until early May. A major California shipper recently stated, “This week [April 16] will be double-tough to get any foodservice supplies. Small Navels are practically nonexistent, and the Valencia crop will only offer pallet quantities of 88s and smaller starting the week of April 23.”



The recent rains in California interrupted the harvest and temporarily reduced availability. Supplies should return to normal by April 23 because high pressure has returned and dry conditions were forecast to resume April 19-21.



Onion buyers have multiple options from which to choose. Storage onions are available in Oregon and Washington state, and new-crop (fresh) onions are available south Texas. Buyers must be aware of the quickly changing options and realize that not all onions are necessarily equal. Near-term prices will likely be volatile and trade in a fairly wide range based on district and quality.

Texas shippers planted 30 percent fewer acres than last year, and a March 29 storm in south Texas effectively reduced the available acreage by another 10 percent. South Texas onions suffered through a massive storm on March 29, which produced up to seven inches of rain and winds up to 70 mph, depending on the exact location. One ranch reported hail was piled six inches high.

Reports of lost acreage vary between 1,000 acres to as high as 2,000 acres. The best estimate is 1,000 acres suffered heavy losses. Additional rains fell April 16 and brought with it the concern of quality issues.

The overlap between the Texas and Mexican onion deals was minimal. The Texas onion season got off to a slow start and production remains well below normal for mid-April. South Texas can receive sudden and unexpected rain, which causes temporary delays and spike market prices.

The south Texas onion deal will continue into late April. The Ontario, OR, season is in the final stages. The last remaining Oregon shippers will continue to pack reds into late April and yellows into early May. Washington state shippers will have reds through April and yellows well into May. New-crop yellow onions from the Imperial Valley were expected to start April 26 and be ample from the beginning. Imperial Valley reds should start April 30. Looking down range, New Mexico will start in late May to early June.



Idaho’s fresh shippers saw a fifth straight week of moderate demand after solid gains from late January into early March. Shippers said carton inventories are beginning to build in some Idaho sheds and volume orders are priced accordingly.

Idaho shippers suggest the ongoing “breather” in the fresh market remains temporary and prices will push higher later in the spring fueled by continuing strong processor demand. The current market gives buyers the opportunity to build inventories at lower prices.

The April 1 Stock Report shows 115,850,000 hundredweight in the United States, which is 4 percent higher than a year ago. Idaho holds 38 percent and Washington state holds 25 percent of the remaining supplies in storage. Idaho’s current supplies are 7 percent higher than last year and Washington state is 15 percent higher.