Your Salad Is About to Get a Lot More Expensive

Apr 21, 2017

Brace yourself for a more expensive salad this spring.

Heavy rain in California has led to “stratospheric prices” on iceberg and romaine lettuce produced in the state, according to the Sacramento Bee. Broccoli prices are going up too.

After five years of drought, the state experienced an unusually warm winter, followed by a series of heavy rains. The Salinas Valley, known as the “Salad Bowl of the World,” has become somewhat of a “soggy agricultural mess,” the Bee said.

As a result, supplies of greens are lighter than usual this time of year and not keeping up with demand. Some crops like iceberg lettuce are behind schedule.

“This month has been very unstable for the industry,” industry group the Produce Alliance noted in its weekly agricultural report on Thursday, describing the markets for all lettuce and broccoli as “extreme.”

The wholesale price of iceberg has risen sixfold since January, while broccoli prices have quadrupled, the Sacramento Bee reported, citing figures from the United States Department of Agriculture. Wholesale cartons of romaine now cost $49 and iceberg about $37, up from around $6 a carton in early January.

California produces 76% of the nation’s lettuce and 94% of its broccoli, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Agriculture prices are notoriously volatile because they’re prone to seasonal swings related to weather, and not all of the increases will be passed on to shoppers. Grocers often eat some of the costs to keep product moving.

According to the Produce Alliance, greens are not the only groceries affected by a supply shock this season.

“We are also experiencing extreme markets with avocados, blueberries, celery, cilantro, garlic, lemons, and now certain sizes of asparagus,” it said. “It is forecasted that May will be better for many commodities.”

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