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Lettuce market remains red hot

Warm weather in November and cold weather in December and January have kept the Romaine market red hot, and most leaf items are also still showing very strong demand. However, broccoli and cauliflower couldn’t hold their demand as their prices soared and those markets have come way down.

Chris Herlihy, who works on the sales desk at Fresh Kist Produce in Salinas, CA, told The Produce News Feb. 5 that broccoli and cauliflower prices were down in the $7-8 range and having trouble holding that number. Just 10 days earlier, both items were trading north of $20.

“The high prices just killed the demand,” he said.

On the other hand, Mr. Herlihy said that Romaine was still selling for $30 per carton with demand exceeding supply and most of the lettuces were in the $20 range.

A Growers Express representative, also in Salinas, gave similar information about the vegetable market.

Most salespeople are seeing some weakening of demand as warm desert weather increases supplies across the board, but many still expect the solid vegetable market to remain through February.

In March, the harvest will begin to switch up to Central California for Iceberg with coastal California increasing supplies of several other items.

Production from Mexico has also increased with the warmer weather for most commodities.

Chris Ciruli, chief operating officer for Ciruli Bros. LLC, Nogales, AZ, said that Roma and round tomatoes are coming across the border in good numbers. “We expect promotable volumes for the next six weeks,” he said during the first week of February.

Mr. Ciruli added that production of cucumbers and Bell peppers was also picking up, as was production of all colored peppers. He said that eggplant production had gone through its peak shipping period and supplies will be a little tight moving forward.

He said that squashes, which his firm was not handling, along with beans and watermelons are the products most susceptible to the freezing conditions that hit northern Mexico in January. For at least the first two weeks of February, he said green beans would be in short supply.

Ciruli Bros. does sell a lot of mangos, and Mr. Ciruli said that while some Mexican production has started to come across the border, his firm hasn’t yet started with its proprietary “Champagne” yellow mangos.

“By the third or fourth week of February we should have good volume,” he said.

Mango production begins in the southernmost regions of Mexico each year, which is far from where the frost occurred, so no effect from that condition is expected on these early mangos.