Temporary Lettuce Shortage Affects Local Prices, At Least Temporarily

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The bad news — wet weather in California this spring definitely impacted the lettuce crop and that means one thing for the price of lettuce.

“Basically tripled, if not a little bit more,” Jim Houser, of Consumers Fresh Produce, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Tuesday. “At its peak, a very, very strong market, strongest I’ve seen in my 15 years here actually.”

Houser buys lettuce and other produce for the Pittsburgh wholesaler in the Strip District.

He says, in the winter, lettuce comes from Arizona, while the rest of the year it comes from California.

April is the switchover month, but bad weather delayed lettuce production in California.

“They call it a gap in our industry, and the product was not ready, and the supply that the country was in need of,” he said.

The shortage affects romaine lettuce, leafy green lettuce, and iceberg lettuce — all in great demand.

“This should be out of this building within a day or two,” Houser said.

There isn’t much lettuce at the Consumers Fresh Produce warehouse now, but depending on the time of day the racks would be stacked with lettuce, and not just on the lower level, but up above as well.

The good news is that the shortage will not last, says Houser.

Houser: “I have a full load that is due in tonight, ramp it back up and then we will deplete our inventory throughout the day. Try to turn it very quickly.”

Delano: “Certainly, with a product like lettuce you got to get it out of here fast, or it will go bad.”

Houser: “Yeah, it’s the nature of the business.”

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As California gets back to normal and locally grown lettuce comes on market, prices have already started to drop.

“I would say it’s a little under double the price right now,” Houser said.

Which is better than triple, but hardly back to normal.

Still, Houser predicts lettuce prices will reset.

“You’ll be back to normal in a few weeks, if not a month,” he says.

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