- A lettuce shortage is raising prices and pushing some restaurants to adjust their menus.
- Chick-fil-A said in a message on its website that "some items may be unavailable or prepared differently," while Subway said it would temporarily use less lettuce in its sandwiches.
- Dole COO Johan Linden said in a Q3 earnings call that the fresh fruit and vegetable producer is seeing “complete crop failure in the industry,” with up to 40% of iceberg lettuce production decimated due to extreme heat.
Warmer weather and the spread of crop diseases are affecting California’s Salinas Valley, which is known as the “Salad Bowl of the World,” producing 70% of the nation’s lettuce crops.
Unseasonably warm weather this year has exacerbated the spread of Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus and Pythium wilt, two crop diseases that can cause discoloration, wilting and death. Pythium wilt often accompanies INSV, “making this truly a complicated pest/disease issue for farmers” according to the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California.
Overall lettuce production dropped 11% YoY in 2021, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Tightened supply has pushed up prices, with the cost of lettuce for consumers rising 17.7% YoY in October, the USDA also reported.
Lettuce supply is expected to improve as the harvest season in Yuma, Arizona, gets underway. Salinas has finished its harvest season and "all leaf items are shipping from Yuma and the desert regions," Brandon Dore, business development manager at Produce Alliance said in a LinkedIn post.
Dole said it expects supply to normalize sometime in January 2023, executives said.
“It is a very unusual situation in terms of the crop failure,” said CEO Rory Byrne. “We haven’t seen such a dramatic one in quite a while.
Sarah Zimmerman contributed to this story.