California Drought to Have Little Impact on Lettuce Prices, Gro Analysis Shows

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Lettuce prices aren’t expected to show much impact from California’s dry conditions, according to Gro models. That comes despite California suffering its worst drought since 2014, which threatens to drive some other fresh produce prices sky high.

Some 86% of California counties are currently experiencing “severe” or worse drought conditions, which is up from 76% just over a week ago, according to the Gro Drought Index. But leafy greens and other row vegetables aren't challenged by drought as often as other crops, such as citrus and tree nuts. For row crops, the primary application of water and nutrients is provided via drip tape, whereas tree crops are reliant on a combination of irrigation and precipitation.

And even as temperatures rise in the principal lettuce-growing areas of Monterey County and the Salinas Valley, this year’s temperature curve has followed much the same path as in the previous five years. That suggests that this year will have similar supply availability and pricing that we have typically seen during the summer growing season in California.

But that isn’t to say that lettuce prices won’t be much higher in a month’s time—just not unduly so. June is typically the month best endowed with row vegetable supply, which keeps prices in check. That’s because at this time of year, the domestic season in California is moving at full speed with moderate temperatures allowing for ideal growing conditions. And in the Midwest and East, additional growing regions such as Michigan and New Jersey are taking advantage of the summer weather, albeit with lower volumes and narrower harvesting windows than in California.

As the summer picks up, however, each growing region faces its own set of weather challenges that can disrupt product availability and supply, and impact prices. Most pressing to prepare for are increasing temperatures throughout the Salinas Valley, potential hurricanes battering the East Coast and Florida, as well as other regional challenges that may impact smaller, more localized amounts of product. Historically, those tighter markets begin to shape up after July 4 and continue for weeks after the initial upswing, depending on all of the driving factors.

Drought in California, the biggest grower of US fresh produce, has worsened just in the past week, and some of the areas hit hardest by drought are also among the top regions for fruit, vegetable, and nut production. Tree crops, including citrus, avocados, and almonds, are expected to be heavily impacted by the dry conditions.

In addition to Gro’s temperature, precipitation, and produce supply analytics, Gro’s US Fresh Produce Cash Price Browser monitors daily price movements of dozens of fresh produce products in locations across the United States, and is an excellent tool to track how prices have moved for a product over the past week, month, or year to date. The app also includes a heatmap for visualizing how prices have changed over time, helping to deduce if price changes are based on seasonality or other external factors.


This insight was powered by the Gro platform, which enables better and faster decisions about factors affecting the entire global agricultural ecosystem. Gro organizes over 40,000 datasets from sources around the world into a unified ontology, which allows users to derive valuable insights such as this one. You can explore the data available on Gro with a free account, or please get in touch if you would like to learn more about a specific crop, region, or business issue.

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