Mar 23, 2023
Organic lettuce feeling effects of heavy rains in California

March has brought more rain to California, with flash floods swamping fields in the Santa Maria and Salinas growing regions.

Another atmospheric river —at least the 12th to pound the region this winter — is expected next week and forecast to dump 1 to 3 inches of rain across lower elevations and 2 to 4 inches across the foothills of Southern California.

Another atmospheric river —at least the 12th to pound the region this winter — is expected to dump 1 to 3 inches of rain across lower elevations and 2 to 4 inches across the foothills of Southern California next week. Photo: File

“This is an unusually high number of storms this winter in California,” Daniel Swain, climate scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, told CNN. “No matter how you slice it, no matter how you make these formal definitions, this is unusually many.”

The rain is taking a toll on the region’s organic produce.

Spring crops of iceberg and romaine lettuce and strawberries will need to be replanted when muddy fields are deemed safe, according to Organic Produce Network’s Week 12 report. Other organic categories expected to feel the pinch during April and May include broccoli, cauliflower and celery, along with leaf lettuces and romaine hearts.

Other Week 12 organic produce news from OPN:

  • The new crop of Mexican organic mangos is ramping up for spring and summer, with Tommy Atkins mangos the first variety available in March and April. Ataulfo honey mangos are also in good supply for March.
  • Organic avocado volume is promotable, with excellent fruit quality and oil content. Organic cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini remain in steady supply, with Florida’s zucchini crop beginning in late March. Supply will initially be slow with premium prices, but both will improve heading into April.
  • Organic Euro cucumbers and mini seedless cucumbers are promotable through the end of the month, with great quality and a new crop of Canadian products on the way.
  • Organic blackberry prices are rising as the crops transition, and organic blueberry prices remain tight on supplies from Mexico and Peru. Overall production is limited, though quality has been excellent in both regions. Organic raspberry prices continue to drop as availability improves, while organic strawberry prices are rising as Florida production wraps up. Supplies out of Baja should be steady, with excellent quality, through Easter.
  • Promotional opportunities continue on organic Brussels sprouts from Mexico, while organic asparagus will be promotable through Easter with steady supply and outstanding quality.
  • Organic Abate pears have arrived from Argentina in steady supply, along with new-crop green and red Bartletts. Bose out of Washington and Washington red pears are winding down for the season.
  • Organic Campari tomatoes have steady prices and excellent quality, while cocktail and cherry-on-the-vine varieties are also abundant. Organic grape tomatoes from Florida will be promotable through Easter, while heirloom tomatoes out of Mexico will be promotable through the end of March. Prices for organic Roma tomatoes are beginning to climb, with pricing for other varieties expected to follow suit. 

    Other reports are finding a downturn in Washington’s organic apple market, where production is down about 25%, according to Fresh Plaza.

    Ben Johnson of Bridges Produce told the newsletter: “With supplies being shorter and grower expenses up, the price per pound is generally up as well. This is conflicting at a time when consumers are trying to pinch pennies in response to high inflation. It is a tough balancing act and as a result, there’s just not a lot of energy in the market right now.”

    Though inflation and rising costs in other countries are also contributing to higher prices, the short crop in Washington will allow for more imports and earlier shipping, Johnson said. He is expecting more supply from New Zealand in particular, with Galas arriving around mid-May.

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